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


  1. I had no idea this was magical realism!! I've always avoided Rushdie - he scares me! - but now I might just want to read this one. I never got through any of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I loved the magical realism in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

  2. Hello world, Jessica have read Rushdie!

    Thank you so much for reading with us and this is such an excellent and honest review. Yes, the book certainly deserve my second read some time in the future.

  3. Would you like to vote and have a say about which titles would you like to see in future read-along (late next year) and rate the book?

  4. I'm proud of you for reading this! I have tried several times to read it and can not stomach the confusion. Now that I know there is a point I might be willing to try it again!

  5. I've read The Enchantress of Florence which I liked at the beginning but about halfway through really lost interest. I've heard that it isn't his best so have thought about giving him another try, and this one gets a lot of positive reviews so I might have to give this one a read. I'll be comforted by the fact that it all ends up somewhere good 96% of the way in if I'm feeling lost and wondering where the hell the story's going :-)

  6. An excellent post! Have never read Rushdie, but have wanted to try Midnight's Children for years. GGM, and especially One Hundred Years of Solitude, pose a similar problem for me - I just don't seem to "get" magic realism. But, maybe there is still hope...

  7. Amanda - hes a tough read so be warned but yeah I also had a shock when I realised it was magical realism.

    JoV - thankyou again for organising this!

    Anbolyn - don't blame you for giving up, I had the same trouble with One Hundred Years. Not sure why I got on with Midnights Childrens but the magical realism can be confusing. I think when I got confused I just carried on with it.

    mummazappa - I heard that this is his most accessable piece of work if that helps!

    JoAnn - I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggled with One Hundred years LOL I think Midnights Children was set in a real time and real places so even with the magical realism there was at least a groundng maybe?

  8. Jess, believe me, I like your honesty with this post. I also had a similar problem reading this until I joined this read-along. This post is absolutely true of what I also experienced.

  9. Ooh, I loved this book and magical realism is one of my favorite genres! I'm glad that even though it's not your thing, you found this one worthwhile.

  10. Geosi - thank goodness for read-alongs eh? t was certainly an experience and well done for getting through it!

    Emily Jane - I do mean it when I say that I will read it again. I'm glad I didn't dismiss magical realism with One Hundred Years.

  11. I've read this one twice. You're right about the benefits of re-reading it. I intend to read it a third time someday. It's one that has lots to offer each time you read it.

    So far anyway.

  12. Okay, thanks for making me look up the definition of magic realism. Hope I wasn't the last one to wonder about it. I'll have to pay more attention.

  13. I can't even think how many YEARS I've had this one on my shelves unread. I don't know, I think Salman Rushdie just intimidates me. I love magic realism (I went through a HUGE Isabel Allende reading spree awhile back) but I just haven't been able to get into this one. Maybe I just need to sit down and power through one of these days!