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Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Kane And Abel’: A Novel With A Racy Pace And Some Exceptional Narration

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[SPOILER ALERT] Back in my college days when my mind was impressionable, my camaraderie with fiction kicked off with Jeffrey Archer’s “Kane and Abel”. This novel helped me realise that books too can hold your interest. This was my first big, fat book. I started and finished it off quickly. It was also my first attempt at reading a novel which was commercially successful. Evidently, I am emotional about it, even though I may not be excessively sentimental either.

What Hooked Me To The Book First?

I can well remember what hooked me to the book from the get-go. It wasn’t only about the story, flow or the characters. It was the process involved. It was about taking pleasure in starting out with a sentence, putting it into the right perspective, deriving a distinct satisfaction in the narration and the way it expressed everything in a captivating manner, and exploring the subjects even if they were just for the purpose of understanding the story. Frankly, since then (and the years after), I have not found anything that has given me such an all-round contentment.

That, Ladies And Gentlemen, is “Kane and Abel” For You

If you pick this book, you are going to enjoy it, no matter what. Even if this may not be your first book, and irrespective of your motivation behind picking this up, I can assure you that your pleasure in reading “Kane and Abel ” will be same as was mine. It will leave you ecstatic. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is “Kane and Abel” for you.

Here It Begins

Character-driven novels like “Kane and Abel” are among the best examples of holistic entertainment. Their narrative force is drawn by pitting the central characters against one another and adding higher stakes with each confrontation. “Kane and Abel” has the same narrative force, but on an expert level. The tug-of-war between Kane and Abel is iconic and written deftly.

Structure Is The Key

The novel has alternating chapters dedicated to William Lowell Kane and Wladek Koskiewicz (re-christened as Abel Rosnovski). Soon, you would be living the lives, beliefs, struggles, and motivations of Kane and Abel. Exciting people and events enter and exit their lives, but they remain pivotal all through. What defines their character is their extraordinary grit, tact and ever-consuming ambitions. Individuals of different worlds and cultures, they have nothing common except their mutual hatred and a common date of birth. Each event and character in the plot flows fluidly. You have a heady mix of mystery, drama, thrill and suspense – and the best part is that you can’t put this novel down. Neither can you put this under one particular genre.

Know The Story Element

William Kane is the scion of a rich and powerful ‘Boston Brahmin ‘family. He is destined to inherit his father’s Kane & Cabot Bank. He is brought up in luxury and has access to the best the world can provide. On the other hand, Abel Rosnovski is a poor bastard born in the wilderness of Poland. His life is filled with real grit. You witness his meteoric rise and fall in a manner that only Mr Archer is capable of etching out, with his penchant of drama and wit. Rosnovski reaches the America after much hardship. Soon enough, he finds his bearings and becomes the baron of the Richmond group. He started his career at a most basic level in Richmond. It is at this juncture that he first confronts a determined and pragmatic William Kane – now all grown-up and the chairman of the Kane & Cabot Bank. William Kane is obviously apprenticed from his birth to take the helm of the bank. Kane, at one point during the Great Depression, decides not to support the owner of the Richmond group who also happens to be Abel’s mentor. The owner commits suicide – and the rivalry between Kane and Abel shoots up and is never settled until it consumes one of them.

The Narrative Pull is The Best Here

The narratives on Kane as well as Abel have their separate pull. On one hand, you will see some fine glimpses of financial management, student politics, lives of the rich and powerful in William Kane’s story. On the other hand, Rosnovski’s life will teach you all about struggling and surviving against the odds, poverty and making the most of your opportunities. You are pulled between two fascinating worlds – and you really wouldn’t want to take sides here.

Character Development – A Work Of Mastery

Things couldn’t have been this fascinating had Archer not shown his mastery over the craft of character development. You identify with the major and the minor characters. From their birth to their childhood, adolescence and on to their adulthood, all are well-pronounced. Even their deaths have been dealt with consummate artistry. By the end of the story, you know every character’s eccentricity and whims.

A Generous Dose Of History

The story is rich in historical details. Events like the two World Wars, the Great Depression, the election of John F Kennedy are integrally woven into the story. The fun part for me here was to discover these events in detail by also researching them outside the novel.

Jeffrey Archer

Epic Saga With Some Clichés

Told in the way of an epic saga, this novel runs on a linear timeline. The progression is logical, the pace is racy, events gel well, with no hiccups – and there’s barely a plot hole. However, there are some clichés like the children of the rival fathers falling in love with each other (therefore giving another dimension to their rivalry). Sounds too Indian, you say? Yes, it is! However, I can see the reason behind such clichés. Archer had a sequel in his mind. But, strictly speaking in the context of the novel, the episode of Richard Kane falling in love with Florentyna Rosnovski could have been avoided. I know Archer could have dealt with this separately in “The Prodigal Daughter” with equal deftness.

Archer’s Usual Plot Elements

When I read Jeffery Archer’s books, I expect certain things in his plot – elements like two powerful protagonists vying for power, a war fought in the world of high finance and stock markets, and a generous dose of history and politics. However, he has done these elements to the death in the recent times. He continues to use the same plot devices even today. After all, by riding on these plot elements, Mr Archer struck gold with “Kane And Abel”. They have worked for him and have won him laurels – so one can understand his affinity to these typical plot elements. When published, “Kane and Abel” instantly became an international sensation. Honestly, he might have published various successful novels after this, but in my opinion, he has never been able to repeat this feat quite like “Kane and Abel”. It has sold millions of copies till now, and it’s almost up there with “Gone with the Wind” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

What About The Literary Merit?

Commercial success and wide popularity, however, do not often translate into literary merit. This is also the case here. If you weigh the novel on its literary merits, it will definitely fall short in many aspects. If the descriptions are captivating, then most of the time, you will find that the author is not ‘showing’ you things but ‘telling’ them. The dialogues also read a bit forced, manufactured and not like natural responses. But all these slips never compromise the force of its narration and the entertainment value.

So The Verdict Is…

We can discuss the literary merits and demerits of the novel at length, but the one thing that stands true for me is that “Kane and Abel” was captivating and a sheer joy. The character development and exquisite narration stand out. The racy pace will not let you put down the book – and with history as its background, you can always learn what defined the lives of many individuals at that time.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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