For a long time I wanted to read a novel by Salman Rushdie. I have a bit of an obsession with anything pertaining to India plus any famous novelist who has a fatwa upon him has my attention. Between being busy with school and some other book or author always occurring to me first on any book-buying expeditions, it took a long time for me to acquire my first Rushdie novel but finally, on My New York Adventure, I saw my chance. The husband (then-fiancé) promised to buy me whatever books I wanted from the Strand as my graduation gift and as soon as I entered the store I made a beeline – to the vegan cookbooks! But after that I paid a visit to Mr. Rushdie and, having no idea which novel to get, made my decision the way that any broke recent college graduate would – I got the cheapest one, Midnight’s Children, Rushdie’s second novel which just so happened to earn him a Booker Prize.
Midnight’s Children is a fictionalized story of India’s independence from Great Britain as it pertains to the so-called Midnight’s Children – the 1001 children born in the first hour of independence. What makes the Midnight’s Children so special besides the hour of their birth, you ask? All have magical powers, with those who were born closest to midnight being the most admirable. Saleem Sinai, who was born on the very stroke of independence, narrates the novel and therefore the story follows him and the inexplicable correlation between his own life and the life of his country.
Like Sea of Poppies, Midnight’s Children is long and not action-oriented but addictive (well, most of it anyway). I’m not going to lie – I spent many hours on the beach on our honeymoon reading this because it was just so good. The writing is amazing, full of idiosyncrasies that make Rushdie’s writing memorable and recognizable. The plot was cleverly crafted – each little piece fit in perfectly and Rushdie struck an incredible correlation between his two tales. There’s a multitude of characters but each is independent of the rest, making it impossible to forget who’s who.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have any complaints. Towards the end, the book just got a bit long. It took weeks for me to finish after my initial helter-skelter dash towards the finish. Sometimes the tale of India got a bit confused, particularly the war between India and Pakistan. This took place during a confused time in Saleem’s life, so the fact that his relation of the events was also a bit muddled makes sense, but it became discouraging at points. I don’t mind doing further research on something I’m reading about if I find it interesting but when I have to do so just to understand the plot it becomes frustrating.
Overall though, I really did love the book. It was interesting to read about early post-colonial India and I appreciated Rushdie’s musings on how history is not absolute. I will definitely read more by him (I think The Satanic Verses, which earned him his fatwa, is next) and I recommend Midnight’s Children to anybody who’s prepared for the long haul.