Monday, June 23, 2008

Trevor's Review of Rushdie's Midnight's Children

I've completed the short list for the Best of the Booker. Midnight's Children has my vote (though I think had I really been able to vote for Best of the Booker on my own terms, I would have gone for Remains of the Day or Possession).

I didn't think I was going to enjoy Midnight's Children as much as I did. About four years ago I started the book, and while I really enjoyed the first 150 pages or so, I got bogged down in the political history that overwhelms the last 400 pages. I never finished it. Since then I have learned more about India's recent history and more about Islam and Hinduism. While it was still difficult at times to follow how the abstract portions of the book fit with the political history, having basic knowledge of India's contemporary history made it much more enjoyable--a true pleasure. The history informs the reading of the book--and the book illuminates the history. Both are fascinating, and important.

It's not just the clever allegory that makes this a worthy read. Rushdie has the gift of describing mundane events as if they were mythical. The narrative devices are clever: Saleem is telling the story while he cracks all over, almost as if it is in real time; a woman makes commentary about his story while he tells it, and he responds to her, sometimes contradicting what he's already said. And what really impressed me: the intricacies and rhythm of the story telling make it seem like this story has been passed down through generations. As it should, being the story of a nation.

5 stars out of 5.


  1. Great review, Trevor! Like you, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did; I was even kind of dreading it. But it's really a great work. I haven't read all the "Best of Booker" shortlist books but if this one were to win, I wouldn't be upset about it!

  2. Same -- I put off reading M.C. because it seemed so daunting. Also, I'd read other books thought to be derivative, such at The God of Small Things (1997 winner), so I didnlt want to be let down by reading the original of the genre. But then I loved it!

    I am usually a very task-oriented reader, so much of my pleasure in reading a book is in finishing it so I can cross it off my list. But with this one, I kept thinking of C.S. Lewis's line about never finding a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough. That is high praise from me.