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Midnight's Children: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Paperback – April 4, 2006
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–The New York Review of Books
“The literary map of India is about to be redrawn. . . . Midnight’s Children sounds like a continent finding its voice.”
–The New York Times
“In Salman Rushdie, India has produced a glittering novelist– one with startling imaginative and intellectual resources, a master of perpetual storytelling.”
–The New Yorker
“A marvelous epic . . . Rushdie’s prose snaps into playback and flash-forward . . . stopping on images, vistas, and characters of unforgettable presence. Their range is as rich as India herself.”
“Burgeons with life, with exuberance and fantasy . . . Rushdie is a writer of courage, impressive strength, and sheer stylistic brilliance.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Pure story–an ebullient, wildly clowning, satirical, descriptively witty charge of energy.”
About the Author
SALMAN RUSHDIE is the author of fourteen novels--including Luka and the Fire of Life; Grimus; Midnight's Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and the Best of the Booker); Shame; The Satanic Verses; Haroun and the Sea of Stories; The Moor's Last Sigh; The Ground Beneath Her Feet; Fury; Shalimar the Clown; The Enchantress of Florence; Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights; The Golden House; and Quichotte--and one collection of short stories: East, West. He has also published four works of non-fiction--Joseph Anton, The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands, and Step Across This Line--and coedited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. A former president of PEN American Center, Rushdie was knighted in 2007 for services to literature.
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Problem one is the narrator. There’s a certain level of pretentiousness from the narrator and the storytelling that annoyed me to no end. And speaking of annoying, the constant asides are maddening and distracting to no end. At many points, the narrator’s digressions and his “unreliability” are quite tiresome and irritating. He will mutter things like “Did it happen this way or no?” “Yes? No? Maybe? Hmmm?” “Should I ? Shouldn’t I?” “But wait….before I get to this…let me tell you about..” “Oh I forgot to mention…” How about get to the point already.
Additionally, his “self-important “style of narration is irksome and tiring. He rambles on and on and on about his life for the first two hundred pages before he is even born. One way to make sure a reader doesn’t care about you is to say how important you are or how significant your story is. Much of the narrator’s “epicness “ waxed pretty artificial, in my opinion, like he was totally full of himself. Being along for the ride with this narrator is akin to being on a 10 hour flight next to a stranger who blabs on and on about every minute detail of their life and won’t stop.
Problem two is the glacial pacing of the novel, with overabundance of everything thrown at the reader in an incoherent and scattered way, from characters, events, history, relatives, etc. at nauseum from every single angle and place. I don’t mind tons of characters, tons of subplots or narrative diversions if there is a point or if it is engaging.
The magic in the book is a bit cartoonish, and so are the characters and situations. I get there a heavy dose of magical realism involved, but my gosh, this was a bit much to swallow, especially in the book’s final two hundred pages or so. Too much focus on body parts and bodily fluids and things coming out of bodies and just bizarre stuff.
To me, the point of tying the narrator to India’s history into one big metaphor is there, but the “rewards” of this for the reader aren’t worth it in the long haul and the frustration of having to wade through so much nonsense.
I know Midnight’s Children is lauded and praised, but I found this book to be pretty off putting in many ways.
This was my first reading of Rushdie and if this is a sampling of the style of his other works, I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else anytime soon.
The writing is brilliant -- fun, humorous, fantastical, entertaining, ambitious and meticulous. I, alas, fall far short of being a brilliant writer, so I'm not going to be able to capture the magic of his writing for you. But, I can give you a great tip: sample this book. Now. Just do it. Amazon will let Prime Customers (all customers??) download a sample that will either have you in agreement or waste a small amount of your time.
Do yourself a favor. Just do it. It will cost you nothing and may well prove to be for you what it has been for me -- a memorable and sublime reading experience.
You read this all the way through. Silly you. You could have been reading "Midnight's Children." I read the first chapter aloud to my wife. This second reading pleased her and showed me how much I had missed on my first reading. I put this book right up there with my favorites: Catch-22 (deadly serious and uproariously funny), almost anything by Mark Twain, The Magus (a page-turner that delivered) , The Sound and the Fury, Harry the Rat with Women (a perfect short novel), The Stranger, Interview with a Vampire (the last chapter wowed me), The Naked and the Dead, the fast-paced novels of David Morrell, the wise-cracking investigator of Plum Island, and War and Peace (which I probably would never have read had it not been for a course). And, darn it, I know I've left out many others that I've found exceptional for one reason or another -- such as much of Saul Bellows, Shogun (which blind-sided me by turning around my first impressions when I wasn't looking) The Grapes of Wrath (with its innumerable outstanding vignettes), Our Town (my favorite play, especially with Hal Holbrook in his finest performance) and . . .
If you want to read a very good book with Muslim mysticism try "Alif the Unseen."
Top international reviews
Despite the multitudinous characters and the incredible vocabulary, I followed the narrative, the themes, the imagery and it didn’t feel like hard work. I liked the element of an unreliable narrator and the references to storytelling, whose truth is passed on, what we choose to reveal, what we embellish, what we forget or misremember. Padma’s role was key to grounding things and sometimes speaking my own thoughts out loud.
It’s epic and has taken me an absolute age to read, maybe because it’s so dense. Maybe because I’m an idiot. Feeling stupid can be humbling though and there’s value to be found in wading slowly through a well thought out novel rather than zooming through a trashy novel. Was it necessary to use a little used fancy word in place of something that would be more accessible and easy to read? It’s a writer’s book not a marketing brochure or piece of journalism so yes, there is absolutely a place on my bookshelves for work that challenges me, opens my mind, introduces new vocabulary.
I often write notes on books as I read them but with Midnight’s Children I just soaked it all up. Knowing it’s often a set text made me wary of over analysing as I read it. Studying English Literature in university momentarily killed my devouring of fiction. Over analysing killed the enjoyment of it and the looming essays tainted my reading time. Not so now.
Reading the one star reviews on here I’d say that clearly it’s not for everyone, if you’re looking for a page turning historical romp, this is not it. It’s a different genre. It put me in mind of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez literary vibe.
It certainly demands another reading, which I hope to give it, in the not-far-away future.
Salmon Rushdie is not in bad company here. I have no patience for Jane Austin, any of the Bronte's, William Shakespeare and most of all Sir Walter Scott - they all wrote in older centuries and not in a familiar style, so there could be a bit of a pattern here. Not my accustomed language, not to my taste.
I gave it a fair trial, it just didn't tickle my imagination.
It took me about a year on and off to actually get through this monster of a book.
However, the magical realism portrayed through this book is wonderful. I found it so interesting to learn about India's (and Pakistan and Bangladesh) indecent history intertwined with this story.
I'm glad I got to the end of the book as it felt like a marathon. A marathon that unfortunately I didn't enjoy
For some reason though I was perfectly fine with the Magic Realism elements in Midnight's Children and in fact I rather enjoyed them. I have no idea why I couldn't get to grips with the Magic Realism in García Márquez's writing as I haven't read enough of it to tell the difference, but for whatever reason, with Rushdie I was completely on board.
The novel follows the life of the narrator Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight at the exact time that India gained independence. The story has a political thread as India's history and emotional stances speed by (and clashing) with Saleem's own life. The history in the book is not entirely accurate as the book has not been researched. It is instead written from Saleem's own memories, so parts are in the wrong order or plot elements are given away far to early or late. This may give you the impression that there is no structure to the novel but there is, an almost rigid one.
Most chapters (if not all?) start with Saleem in the present who gives an introduction/update on his present life to the reader. His lover Padma will often intervene here asking questions and instructing Saleem to stick to the point. I can't say I particularly connected with any of the characters unfortunately but I was willing to stick with the novel and the overall story, it didn't at any point occur to me to stop reading.
The biggest thought that sprang to my mind while reading Midnight's Children was 'where the heck is this all going'. Most of the novel just seemed to meander through different places, plot lines and themes. I had no idea if there was a point to it all as I just could not see where it was all leading to. Normally this wouldn't bother me but at over 650 pages I wanted something other than a fizzled out ending to all this.
I should have had more faith in Rushdie as 96% of the way through (I made a note of the % on my kindle) suddenly everything slotted into place and as everything came round full circle I realised that Rushdie had had a plan all along so I was left feeling a happy reader.
Reading Midnight's Children has certainly been an experience and while large parts of it went right over my head or I lost it completely this didn't seem to matter as I always managed to keep up with the story and the unbelievably layered writing. This novel would certainly benefit from a couple of re-reads and I can see myself doing this in a couple of years time.
While I would describe the novel as a challenging read I never found it a chore but it is unlikely I would read another book by this author..
There were too many metaphorical similes, being used to explain what was happening. At times I just wanted him to hurry and tell the story, instead of babbling on, in a Middle Earth kind of babble!