Midnight’s Children took me three weeks to read. Which is an extortionately long time for me: I read Ulysses in under six days, remember. The last book to take me this long was Infinite Jest (which I loved), and prior to that I have to stretch back years to when I slogged through the incredibly rewarding Nostromo. This one, however, I didn’t love.
Perhaps because I read it in and out of essay writing, in between parties, long shifts at work, travelling around the country to see various family members, perhaps because I didn’t pay it enough attention I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d expected to. There were lots of things I did like – the detail of place and history I loved, I felt Rushdie’s descriptions of the Indian subcontinent were joyous and evocative, particularly his preoccupation with smell. It is tactile, it is poetic, prose, and I liked it for that.
What I didn’t like was the magical powery stuff, particularly how this wavered in importance. I begrudging accepted the protagonist having non-human skills, but when the variety of the “powers” of the “Midnight’s Children” were revealed it felt – temporarily – like a less glamorous X-men. Regular readers of this blog will know I DO NOT like superheroes.
I also didn’t like the way future events were constantly foreshadowed, hinted at with such obvious allusions that no plot developments were ever a surprise, but as I don’t really care about plot I could have forgiven this, if I’d enjoyed Rushdie’s style. But I didn’t, I suppose. I loved his great descriptions and I enjoyed the impressive evocation of turbulent times in modern history, when the narrative was of a young man exploring Bombay, Rawalpindi, Dhaka, Delhi, the Sundarbans, elsewhere, flashbacks to his ancestors in Kashmir… when the book was of travel and exploration it was lifting and exciting, when it was of history and social mores it was fascinating and a great read… but when it was about super-powers or the nature of story-telling or over-blown metaphors about pickling it just didn’t get me.
So, with regret, for I can see its appeal and can understand what is “good” about it, there is too much here I found superfluous and tiresome. I suppose it’s important to point out that I did enjoy reading the book more than I enjoyed thinking about it, but as a riposte to that, a good book should be as involving when open as it when closed.
A strong book, I suppose, but not to my taste. Apologies, world.
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