Friday, 28 August 2015

Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer

This may have been a book I needed to read to get closer to finishing the BBC Big Read, but it was definitely not a book for me. The writing is fine, and it's pretty much just a potboiler. I mean, seriously, it's okay. It's not great. But the great capitalist heroes at the centre are just a little hard to swallow.

Plus, it pretty much relies on a romantic comedy staple, the misunderstanding that would bring these business rivals together if one just told the other one simple sentence that there is no real reason to withhold. So the bromance is abortive, and they try to ruin each other's lives.

William Kane is a capitalist in the old school manner - he inherits it, and is such a financial genius that he surpasses his father, while being really a very nice guy. Abel is a capitalist in the new school manner - he immigrates to the States, and through hard work and determination, makes his millions. During the Depression, there is a misunderstanding that makes these fine, upstanding, moral bastions of society dislike each other.

(Well, Abel bribes a lot of people to get his hotels opened, but that's seen as a misunderstanding, a peccadillo.)

And of course, when World War II rolls around, like millionaires everywhere, particularly middleaged ones with wives and children, both Kane and Abel want to be on the front lines and enlist and are frustrated because they're not out there. I mean, they couldn't be masculine if they didn't fight, right? Every super-rich man did the same, I'm sure.

They're just both such good guys. I mean, yeah, the immigrant millionaire also cheats on his wife a lot, but she never understood his drive for success, so what's the problem? The native-born millionaire has a steady marriage. There is no real judgement in the book.

They make money, they take care of their employees, they pump money into the economy - of course they're heroes! God, this book is not for me.  There was much rolling of the eyes. So much rolling of the eyes.

Of course they're benevolent rich people. Of course they also want to enlist like patriotic men of course would. Of course the only real troubles in their respective worlds come from the two clashing when they should have been friends all along.

Really? That's it? That's your book? I just...I just don't care. I don't care about either main character, I don't believe in the myth of wealth proving worth, I don't really give a shit if they manage to work out their differences. The writing is fine. It's the content that's bothersome.

Read as part of the BBC Big Read

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