27 September, 2015

Book Review: Midnight's Children

From GoodreadsBorn at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked.
But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden. 

Thoughts: This was our book group read for September. I was a little concerned - Rushdie is not known as an easy read and our last two book group reads, Coin Locker Babies and The Swan Book, were not easy going. (I didn't finish The Swan Book). It wasn't easy, but I did enjoy it.
If you don't like books that go off on tangents, hint at things and then not tell you, tell you someone dies, but not how, at least not yet then this is not the book for you. Rushdie does all of these. Saleem is taking a journey through his life and there are many paths to follow, many stories to tell, but all in their own time. Towards the end of the book Saleem is a lot more disciplined about following the tangents, starting off down the path only to turn back abruptly as he tells the reader time is short and he must concentrate on getting to the end. This gave a sense of urgency to the telling, a need to get this out before there was no time left.
I think I would have got more out of this book if I'd had a stronger understanding of Indian history. Saleem's belief that his life is paralleled by the history of India is a core component of the story. However, there is still much to be got from the story even if your knowledge like mine is basic. For me the chaotic nature of India that I've read about in other books and been told about by friends is once again reflected in Midnight's Children. It's quirkiness, fierce, hard won independence and pockets of amazing tranquility among riots of colour are strongly represented. 
I was right, Rushdie wasn't an easy read, but it was definitely a worthwhile one. While not everyone's cup of tea, there are moments of laugh out loud and moments of true reflection. He's one of those authors you must, at the very least, give a go.

Midnight's Children gets 3 stars

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing