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The Enchantress of Florence Audible – Unabridged

3.6 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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By Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree VINE VOICE on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This mesmerizing novel, even more charming, entertaining and thought-provoking than his Booker-winning "Midnight's Children", dazzles like a genuine gem. Written in prose so indescribably beautiful and absorbing that I found myself holding my breath involuntarily countless number of times, this book will most certainly elevate Rushdie's well earned lofty place in the literary world even higher.

This novel is not one long story; rather, it is a marvelous narration and compilation of several stories, each bewitching in its own way. On the surface, it is the story of a handsome, golden haired man named Mogor dell'Amore (Mughal of Love), who claims that he is a descendant of Emperor Akbar's grandfather's youngest sister, a princess of great beauty, the Mughal princess Qaara Koz. Also, this novel is partly based on history, the rest is a combination of fable, fantasy, and Rushdie's florid imagination: the great Mughal Emperor of India, Akbar, and his sons are historic; but the golden haired enchantress of Florence, I think, is a product of Rushdie's imagination or fantasy. The novel can also be read as a story about the clash of two civilizations: The Mughal Empire in the East, and the "empire" of the Medicis and Machiavelli of Florence in the West. This book can be called novel only in a broad sense; to call it an epic, perhaps, would be more appropriate.

Very rarely do readers get an opportunity to read prose as lovely and grand and mesmerizing as Rushdie's prose in this book. The cumulative effect of reading lovely passages on top of dazzling passages will surely overwhelm the reader: "Fires began to burn in the twilight, like warnings. From the black bowl of the sky came the answering fires of the stars.
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Format: Hardcover
The Enchantress of Florence begins with a mysterious yellow-haired stranger standing astride a bullock cart as he enters the domain of the emperor of India. He is godlike in stance, yet in appearance he is as a fool with his "overly pretty face" and parti-colored coat. The city to which he arrives is one of the grand cities of the world in both scale and wealth. Even the nearby lake seems to be made of gold. This of course is just an illusion brought about by the setting of the sun, but is an appropriate introduction to the story since it will become difficult to separate the real from the imagined as the story progresses.

The yellow-haired man is a teller of stories and he has arrived to tell a story to the Mughal of India that will either bring him fortune or cost him his life. This young man has represented himself to the Emperor Akbar as an emissary of Queen Elizabeth I. The emperor challenges the stranger's identity and would dismiss him except the yellow-haired man, who calls himself first Uccello of Florence and then Mogor dell'Amore (mogul of love), begins to weave the enchanting story of Qara Koz, the enchantress of Florence, who he claims is his mother.

But what is the Emperor to make of the stranger's story? What are we to make of the story we are reading? Identities and reality are not always clear within this magical novel. Who is the story-telling stranger? Is Qara Koz really the stranger's mother? Even the Emperor is not sure if he is simply an "I" like everyone else or a "we" of divine royalty. Reality is tenuous. Characters are imagined yet given "space" and relationship. Painters disappear into their own paintings. The story-teller feels himself fading away to nothingness when kept from telling his story.
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Format: Hardcover
Years ago (more than I'd like to think about), one of my tutors recommended that I read Salman Rushdie's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories." I tried to finish the novel but have to confess that I didn't. I probably lacked the sophistication back then to appreciate the exquisite prose style and painstaking craftsmanship that went into creating that award winning novel. And truthfully speaking I rather thought that Salman Rushdie was going to be one of the many winning authours that would never make to my reading pile. But something about "The Enchantress of Florence" beckoned, and I decided to give it a go. And I'm truly glad that I did. What an exceptionally enthralling and compelling read "The Enchantress of Florence" turned out to be.

The Mughal Emperor, Akbar, is ready for a diversion away from the woes of family and ruling a vast nation, when a mysterious yellow-haired stranger arrives at his court in Fatepur Sikri, claiming to be an ambassador from England. The stranger has many tales to tell about the distant European city of Florence, and the enchantress from the East that enraptured the people of Florence with her beauty and grace, and soon everyone in Sikri is enthralled by the young storyteller's tales. But will these stories prove the undoing of the court, and will Akbar's growing affection for the storyteller cause even more strife amongst his family?

When I was a child, my mother used to subscribe to an Indian magazine for women that had recipes, articles, sewing tips and vignettes about Akbar and his wise advisor Birbal. Reading "The Enchantress of Florence" transported me back to those wonderful carefree days.
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