Kane and Abel – Review

Month: February 2011

Book-Had was reading: Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Review: Written in the late 70’s by British author, Jeffrey Archer, this book tells you the story, or is rather a saga, of two men, Kane and Abel, born on the same day – 19th April and how their destinies intertwine.

The name of the book “Kane and Abel” is taken from Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam.  The book contains references to major events such as the World War I, World War II and the Great Depression of 1930.

A lot could be mentioned about the upbringing of each of the protagonists and how it influenced their decisions in life later, but it would be better to explain the main concept/ focal point of this book – mutual hate between the protagonists which finally blossoms into solidarity.

William Lowell Kane.  Wikipedia calls him a Boston Brahmin. Born with a silver spoon and into a family of bankers, he proves to be good with numbers and blessed with business acumen (Something both, he and Abel share). Kane Sr. dies in the Titanic accident, leaving Kane Jr. in charge of the Kane & Cabot Bank. He graduates from Harvard, keeps tabs on his mother’s husband, Henry Osbourne, a money swindler. When Kane’s mother suffers from a miscarriage and dies; he throws Osbourne out of his house and presumably, his life. But there is another twist in this twisted story.

Abel, after his many adventures and close encounters with death in Poland (his birthplace), Siberia and Turkey, makes it to the Land of Dreams – America. While peeling potatoes in the Richmond hotel kitchen and attending Columbia University, Abel manages to impress Davis Leroy, the head of Richmond Hotels and is appointed manager of the flagship hotels. It’s Great Depression, 1930 and Davis is unable to find a backer. Davis commits suicide, leaving everything to Abel. Abel renders Kane responsible for Davis’s suicide (since Kane & Cabot denied them any money whatsoever) and that’s when this Mahabharata of American proportions starts.  Richmond Hotels is however bailed out, by an anonymous benefactor whom Abel believes to be Mr. Maxton, director of another group of hotels.

Abel marries Zaphia, a fellow immigrant and they have a child named Florentyna, named after Abel’s foster sister. In spite of being so close to each other and being so much in love Abel loses interest in Zaphia during their middle ages. He sees her as “dowdy” and unglamorous. At the other end of the spectrum William has a son, Richard. Circumstances (almost) bring the two warring businessmen together. One such example: One  saves the other’s life during WW II.

The feature of this novel is twists and turns, near-misses. Next thing we know, Florentyna, falls in love with Richard. Surprise! Surprise! Abel ousts Kane from Kane and Cabot Bank. Kane forgives Richard for marrying Florentyna and meets his grandson, William Abel Kane (I know!) and soon dies. The twists in this story could give the twists in The Bold and the Beautiful some solid competition. And then, Abel realizes that his backer was none other than Kane. End of story.

The story has a lot of drama, inflated egos and lots of disappointed women. The book’s good for a one hour train ride from Borivali to Churchgate. It’s neither one of Archer’s best works nor his worst. But definitely it is a work that caters to the public’s sensibilities and also to early teenagers. Overall it’s a good book, no food for thought really. Definitely reinforces my belief in astrology though (19th April).

BookHad rates ‘Kane and Abel’ 3/5.

– Maulika Hegde


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