Sunday, 19 December 2010
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Bibliojunkie hosted a read-along of Midnight's Children which I was very eager to join even though this isn't a book which was on my TBR list. The reason why I joined this particular read-along, aside from the fact that I seem to be addicted to read-alongs, is because I just wanted to say 'oh yeah I've read Rushdie' Totally the wrong reason for wanted to read a book I'm sure but what the hell, I'm just being honest.
Once I downloaded the book and I started to read it my heart sank when I realised the novel was an example of 'Magic Realism'. The only other book I've read which contained Magic Realism elements is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez which I gave up on as my brain seemed to do a mental block when anything which I deemed 'weird' happened, which was a lot.
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..
Posted by Jess