Saturday 18 October 2008

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

I wish I could say exactly what this book was about. I wish I could say that I hated this book because I can't say what it was about. I wish I could have avoided finishing this book when I couldn't figure out what it was about. But being the ever vigilant book group member that I am I pressed onwards and forced myself to read it.

The book was our October book group selection. I've always wanted to read a Rushdie book and I was well aware that his books are not for literary lightweights. So I settled in for a long hard slog. This is a large tome weighing in at well over 600 pages and if I was going to finish this before the next book group I knew I needed to get started.

The problem was that the first 50 pages took me almost a week of nightly reading to get through. I have no idea what those first 50 pages were on about. In fact, I'm not sure what the whole first book (the book is divided into 3 books) was about.

Book 2 captured my attention though and whilst I am sure the subtleties of the book were completely lost on me I was kinda getting to grips with the whole plot (such as it was).

It seems that I was reading a potted history of India since their independence from Colonial Britain. The story is told by Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight on the very day of independence. And this is where it all goes wonderfully weird.

It seems that there are 1001 (precisely) children in India who were also born at that time (or thereabouts) and they all seem to have some magical mystical power.

I wish I could elaborate but I can't. The story wonders and weaves through characters lives and times. The language wonders and weaves through stream of consciousness and absolute nonsense. Book 3 was so confusing I found I had read 20 pages and had no clue about what had happened.

Oddly though, this doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the book. I just let the words wash over me. I do believe that if I knew more about the history of India I could have perhaps understood the associations of the story much better. If I have interpreted this all correctly the entire story is a rich metaphor of the formation and development of the nation of India, such as it is.

Rushdie must be either completely barking mad or nothing short of genius. OK, possibly a bit of both (or a lot). The language and phrasing of the book will lead you straight to the dictionary and his occasional outburst of stream of consciousness left me cold. C'mon - give me some punctuation!

Book Group Verdict: I am the only book group member to finish the book, again. Some gave up after just 50 pages which is seriously lame. Some gave it a real good go and simply ran out of time. The overall verdict was pretty much in line with my review above.

pgs 647!!!!


Marla said...

This would be a book that I have no interest in! I could never find enough reading time to complete the book in one months time. Your doing great with your weight loss! I'm roud of you for that accomplishment. I could not do it!

Janell said...

Rushdie is one of the most bizarre writers of the modern age, in my opinion. No one would have ever heard of him if Kohlmeini had not put a contract on his life after "Satanic Verses." I gave up on him after I read that one.