Archer’s quiver : Kane and Abel

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Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-mare, is one of the most famous authors of this era, hailing from England he was a former politician whose novels tend to revolve around the lives of the moguls of various industries. But mostly his novels evoke the various strategies of  global politics with regards to the world wars  and how it shapes the protagonists’ lives, which can only be explained by his own career. The most remarkable features of his novels include the ruthless portrayal of society and the intensely drastic images of war and it’s effects on the so called “casualties”. His novels depict the protagonist as highly ambitious and fast learners who tend to learn the tricks of the trade and evolve as super powers, wielding power and wealth. Such is the theme of his best-seller Kane and Abel. The perfect amalgamation of politics, poverty, power and prodigy.

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The story revolves around two men- Kane and Abel, a clear allusion to the dysfunctional brothers Cain and Abel in Genesis, born in different parts of the world under completely different circumstances and traces the entire sixty years of their lives in Europe and America. William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, the triumphant protagonists find themselves in a life long antagonistic relationship, which they take up so very violently, that it seems one must emerge as the triumphant victor.

William Lowell Kane had every possible backing both financial and social and a name that served as an object of aspiration for many. He was the son of a wealthy banker who did not have any deficiencies in life. He was want for nothing. Abel on the other hand , was an illegitimate child of a maid who died giving birth to him. Therefore, he was both parent less and did not have any financial advantage and thus penniless. Abel’s life was full of extreme suffering and pathos, since at every turn he fell prey to the challenging circumstances of immigration and war, that overwhelmed his childhood friends. Kane was offered every advantage in life, whereas Abel was thrown into a Russian labour camp at a very young age. The drastic images of his mental torture is the stark reminder of the ruthlessness and devastation of warfare. However, Abel’s silver lining appears as he sails away to America.

Archer masterfully takes us through their childhood, their years of schooling and education and their adult years in such an intricate manner, that we almost completely understand why they take their respective decisions and how their own backgrounds play the most important part in their resulting success. Both Kane and Abel reflect upon their actions and resort to extreme hatred for each other to satisfy their ever growing ambition and competition. Their experiences are clearly reflected in their life’s choices and requirements. However, based on certain assumptions and misunderstandings, they turn out to be each other’s rivals to an extent that it becomes their inspiration to ruin each other. But their convictions are shattered when at old age they learn the correct facts and also when their own children, oblivious to the existing rivalry chose to marry each other. But do they really reconcile? Does is end with the two egotists acknowledging their errors? Well you must read it to find out.

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The addition of global catastrophes like the sinking of the Titanic, the Second World War and the Great Depression that ravaged the United States in the year 1929 had a profound effect on the lives of the characters, not to mention a taste of history which never for a second deviated from the story line. Small events like the commercial release of Gone with the Wind was woven into the story. Archer’s composing prowess emerges at it’s best when the readers experience the inter mixing of these events with the lives of the characters and also the antagonism that eventually builds up between two of the most powerful men of the West.


Kane and Abel was acclaimed as the The New York Times best-seller which was later adapted into a miniseries by CBS in 1985, starring Peter Strauss ( who plays Abel Rosnovski) and Sam Neill (who plays William Kane). And why should it not. It is a tale packed with high powered drama, over leaping ambition of two men belonging to different strata of the social hierarchy, defined by their lawless aspiration and a life long feud based on assumptions. This particular piece of fiction will surely be a life changing experience for all fiction lovers. Engrossing and thrilling at every turn it is a complete success. The most commendable part is that you will feel torn between the two protagonists of the novel throughout, feeling more drawn towards both the characters. The most indecisive feeling, along with the most apt ending. There could not be a more befitting end to this high powered drama. Jeffrey Archer is definitely the best story teller of all times. He is the crafter of complex plots and story lines backed by his experience in the field of work life and a breath hitching ending. The novel also has a rather popular sequel – The Prodigal Daughter.