From Feb, 2009
I have to start this review by admitting I love Salman Rushdie’s work. I fell in love when I read Shalimar the Clown back in July of 08. The Satanic Verses which I read next, remains one of my all time favorite books. Haron and other Sea Stories was next on my list and once again Rushdie wooed me with his words. When I finished Haron I had to make a hard decision; what of Rushdie’s do I read next?
As I researched which of his titles I wanted to tackle next, his book Midnight’s Children won the Man Booker of all Booker prizes http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1099. This I had to read! It took me a month, but it was well worth the time.
Midnight’s Children is a very rich (often too rich) metaphor on the birth of India as a nation. Saying the tale centers on one particular child, Saleem Sinai, who is born at the stroke of midnight of India’s independence, would be doing Rushdie injustice. Every character in this book could easily be the protagonist. This is the magic and genus of Rushdie; all his characters’ are fully developed and have amazing back stories. My favorite character was Aadam Aziz, Saleem’s grandfather. Rushdie starts the tale, as he often does, in Kashmir, (Kashmir seems to be a magic place for Rushdie) with Aziz coming home with a medical degree. Aziz is called upon to look at a local sick girl who is veiled behind a curtain. Aziz can only view her ailing body part, the rest covered with a sheet. Over time he views her body bit by bit and as he does he falls in love. This is a lovely metaphor showing the physical aspect of how we tend to fall in love; by seeing in the other person that which we want to see and ignoring the rest.
Eventually they marry and move to Bombay where most of the tale takes place. The reader is introduced to Saleem’s mother, father, aunts and uncles before Saleem is born so that by the time he is the reader is emotionally involved in his family and their secretes.
As India is born so too is Saleem, who along with all the other midnight children, is born with a gift or curse depending on how one looks at it. Saleem is born with the gift of mind reading. This leads Saleem to learn many of his family’s secretes and discover the other midnight children. These children deserve a book of their own, I am still thinking of many of them , wondering what happened to them.
The tale weaves in and out of real events both past and present. Saleem is put in the middle of many political events and causes quite a bit too! This is the one caution I would pass on to anyone thinking of reading this book; if the only think you know about India is where to find it on a globe, this book may not be for you. Rushdie assumes the reader knows the events and people he is writing about. I am very versed in India history but even I had to look up a few names to better understand what Rushdie was talking about.
Rushdie can write like no other. Every page is full of prose, metaphors, and stories. Rushdie is the only writer I can think of who can span two life times in just a couple of pages, or write as if each word was a poem unto itself. Reading him can be exhausting at times because of this, but if you stick with him, he will whisper magical verses to you and tell you a story that will stay with you for a long, long time.