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The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel Hardcover – May 27, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Item Weight : 1.44 pounds
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375504334
- Product Dimensions : 6.4 x 1.19 x 9.6 inches
- ISBN-10 : 0375504338
- Publisher : Random House; 1st Edition (May 27, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,343,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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[Spoiler warning: Perhaps I was in a cantankerous frame of mind, but I wished the women in the story has played parts beyond those of sex, beauty, envy, and manipulation. It would have been great to borrow one of the Spartan women from Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire," a woman with courage, compassion, and intelligence.... Also, this happens to be the second book in a row that I've read that, alas, contains incest.]
I enjoyed this book very much. I found the settings and characters interesting and enjoyed it's reflections about storytelling and its story-within-story framing narrative. While there is a sharp departure from India to Italy in the second part of the book, Rushdie does ultimately tie everything together in a satisfactory way that explains the mystery of the character known as the "Mogor dell'Amore". If you keep reading, your patience will be rewarded.
I particularly enjoyed Rushdie's account of Akbar the Great and his capital city of Fatehpur Sikri in northwest India. In fact, when I had a chance to visit India 4 months later, I made a point of visiting Fatehpur Sikri which is one hour from Agra where the famed Taj Mahal is. Most tourists to India visit Agra but don't take the time to visit Akbar's city. The beautiful red sandstone buildings are well-preserved and definitely worth visiting for a half or whole day. My visit to Fatehpur Sikri was one of the highlights of my trip to India, in part because I could picture Akbar and his court thanks to Rushdie's vivid account of them.
Top reviews from other countries
I have not read very much Rushdie and I was not sure what I would make of this book. Going by the reviews it seems to divide opinion, but I loved it.
The book is like an incredible tapestry, rich in imagery, history (it comes with a long bibliography), descriptions, themes and characters. Although a work of historical fiction, as Rushdie has said: "non-historians think of history as being a collection of facts, whereas actually it's not -- it's a collection of theories about the past. We revise our view of the past all the time, depending on our own present concerns."
As rationalist westerners we see history through our realism focused eyes. But the worlds that Rushdie draws - the Mughal court and Renaissance Florence - believed in magic, enchantment and religion. It is therefore only right that a book set in such a world should share those belief structures. Accurate historical fiction is magic realism and that is what Rushdie writes brilliantly, for example the Great Mughal, Akbar, has a fantasy wife, who exists not only in the mind of Akbar but also on Rushdie's pages as an independent character.
Of all the characters the best drawn is Akbar, who is a mass of contradictions, a bloody tyrant who meditates on the role of kingship, religion and identity. The yellow-haired Italian stranger is less well drawn with good reason because we are viewing him through Akbar's eyes and Akbar cannot tell whether the stranger's story is true or not and he and we never know. We are shown at the beginning of the book how ruthless the stranger can be in pursuing his own interests. Rushdie has been criticised by some readers as being anti-women in this book, defining women by their sexuality, as whores or sexual enchantresses. Although a feminist and a liker of strong women characters this aspect of the book did not bother me. Rushdie is accurately depicting the world of the Mughals and Renaissance Italy and the place of women in it. The enchantress of the title uses her sexual beauty and force of will to bind men to her. The book closes with her saying to Akbar, "And now, Shelter of the World, I am yours." And Akbar thinking "Until you're not, my Love. Until You're not" for the Enchantress had always moved on from one man to another as their power to protect her fails. The power of men is shown throughout the book to be fragile and short, even Akbar's great palace is brought to dust. Perhaps, one wonders, the only power that survives is that of the illusion of the perfect woman.
This review first appeared on the Magic Realism Blog - [...]
Like in the "Verses" you gain more insight the more time you take over a Rushdie, so don't rush it.