Book Review: Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie [TSS]

Title: Midnight’s Children: A Novel
Author: Salman Rushdie
ISBN: 9780812976533
Pages: 533
Release Date: 1981
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Midnight’s Children follows the story of Saleem Sinai, a boy born at midnight on August 15, 1947, the exact moment of Indian independence from Britain.  Within one hour of midnight in either direction, 1,001 children were born in India, and they each have some sort of special power.  As a child born right at midnight, Saleem’s powers are the strongest – those of telepathy.  Rushdie takes the reader through independent India’s tumultuous early years, juxtaposing Saleem’s personal story against the broader events of modern India, and brilliantly intertwining the two.

Review:

In the past when I’ve told people that Salman Rushdie is my favorite author, yet I haven’t read Midnight’s Children, they are surprised.  After all, it’s considered his seminal work, one of the best novels in modern literature.  I have a good reason though – I started it years ago, got about halfway through, at which point my book met with an unpleasant fate.  Water was somehow spilled all over it, and I couldn’t even peel the pages apart, much less finish it.  I vowed to buy another copy immediately so I could continue, but by the time I got around to it earlier this year, I had forgotten too much to be able to pick up where I left off.  So I started anew, devouring this unique novel from beginning to end.

I absolutely loved the history contained within Midnight’s Children and am very glad I waited this long to read it.  Why?  I just wrote my master’s thesis on the conflict between India and Pakistan.  Therefore, when I was reading this novel, I recognized the historical accuracy of even the most minor events.  It gave me a lot of familiarity with the subject matter.  Midnight’s Children on the whole is a bit convoluted and confusion (that’s not a criticism, just a statement of fact – I liked the way it was written, personally) and having an intimate knowledge of that history really helped me understand the book.

I could really tell that this was an early work of Rushdie’s when I was reading it.  While brilliantly written, it doesn’t quite have that polish that his later novels display so easily.  Rushdie has always had the ability to write beautiful prose, but it’s clear that he’s honed that skill over the years.  While the writing in Midnight’s Children was excellent, it wasn’t quite as beautiful as some of his later work.

Magical realism is ever present in Midnight’s Children, as it is in most of Rushdie’s works.  I thought it worked especially well in this novel, as many of the events taking place in the backdrop are larger than life.  I love how Rushdie incorporated fantasy into the very real, very scary history of post-independence India.  Wars, riots, states of emergency – it was not a pretty picture, yet Rushdie handles it very well.

After reading the 25th anniversary author’s note at the beginning of the novel and really absorbing the book itself, the genius of Midnight’s Children becomes all the more clear.  It’s simultaneously a love and hate letter to India.  Rushdie loves his country at the same time he is incredibly angry at how events have unfolded there.  He brilliantly expresses these feelings through Saleem and the events in the book.  It’s really an amazing feat, all the more astonishing considering this was only his second novel.

Midnight’s Children is really a masterpiece of twentieth century fiction.  I was continually amazed by its breadth and depth, at how much Rushdie jam-packed into its pages.  As a result, it is a book to be read slowly and savored; reading it quickly will ruin the experience and make it difficult to understand.  I really enjoyed it and am glad I finally got around to reading this modern classic.

Comments

  1. I was thinking before you said it that it was probably a good thing you hadn’t finished it the first time – because reading it now with the work you’ve done on it recently makes it pretty much the perfect time.

    I’ve not heard of the book before, and I’m very intrigued by the sound of the magical used alongside such events.

  2. I was thinking before you said it that it was probably a good thing you hadn’t finished it the first time – because reading it now with the work you’ve done on it recently makes it pretty much the perfect time.

    I’ve not heard of the book before, and I’m very intrigued by the sound of the magical used alongside such events.

  3. I have 5 books by Rushdie and have not read any of them. The one sounds very good! Thanks for the review

  4. I have 5 books by Rushdie and have not read any of them. The one sounds very good! Thanks for the review

  5. See there was a reason why the original book was ruined. It made you wait to finish it when you had more information on the topic! I don’t know why, but this book has intimidated me in the past. You’ve warmed me up a little bit.

  6. See there was a reason why the original book was ruined. It made you wait to finish it when you had more information on the topic! I don’t know why, but this book has intimidated me in the past. You’ve warmed me up a little bit.

  7. I’ve read The Satanic Verses, and I liked it, but as far as Rushdie goes, I’m very much looking forward to Midnight’s Children.

    Ah, and a side note- this isn’t Rushdie’s first novel; that would be Grimus. It’s his second novel. :)

  8. I’ve read The Satanic Verses, and I liked it, but as far as Rushdie goes, I’m very much looking forward to Midnight’s Children.

    Ah, and a side note- this isn’t Rushdie’s first novel; that would be Grimus. It’s his second novel. :)

  9. Clare – Thanks so much for that tip, you’re so right! I’ve gone back and corrected it in my review.

  10. Clare – Thanks so much for that tip, you’re so right! I’ve gone back and corrected it in my review.

  11. I’ve had The Satanic Verses sitting on my TBR shelves for a very very long time. Ah, so many books, so little time.

  12. I’ve had The Satanic Verses sitting on my TBR shelves for a very very long time. Ah, so many books, so little time.

  13. I have to read something by Rushdie at some point soon! That sounds like a fascinating thesis, by the way, and would have given you a lot more knowledge of the historical aspect for sure!

  14. I have to read something by Rushdie at some point soon! That sounds like a fascinating thesis, by the way, and would have given you a lot more knowledge of the historical aspect for sure!

  15. need to run this by dh (scottish but spent first 13 years in india, and after college while an engineer in the oil patch).

  16. need to run this by dh (scottish but spent first 13 years in india, and after college while an engineer in the oil patch).

  17. I have a feeling this is one of those books that I’m not smart enough to understand.

  18. I have a feeling this is one of those books that I’m not smart enough to understand.

  19. I agree, this is a brilliant book and one that I’d really like to read again. It’s the only Rushdie that I have ever read, but it was stunning. Which of his others do you recommend?

  20. I agree, this is a brilliant book and one that I’d really like to read again. It’s the only Rushdie that I have ever read, but it was stunning. Which of his others do you recommend?

  21. Oh wow – you finished this! I am still smarting from my last try 5 years ago. I’ll give it a try when I forget that experience.

  22. Oh wow – you finished this! I am still smarting from my last try 5 years ago. I’ll give it a try when I forget that experience.

  23. We read this in my book club several years ago. It is confusing and convoluted at times but I did enjoy it. Unfortunately, I did not have the historical context to help me understand most of what was discussed in the novel. Still, it was a fascinating book. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  24. We read this in my book club several years ago. It is confusing and convoluted at times but I did enjoy it. Unfortunately, I did not have the historical context to help me understand most of what was discussed in the novel. Still, it was a fascinating book. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  25. I tried the book – Enchantress of Florence, did not get anywhere with it.
    Maybe i should give this one a try.

  26. I tried the book – Enchantress of Florence, did not get anywhere with it.
    Maybe i should give this one a try.

  27. Zibilee – I really enjoyed The Moor’s Last Sigh and The Satanic Verses. I also liked Rushdie’s newer works, but they were less dense (which can be both good and bad!)

  28. Zibilee – I really enjoyed The Moor’s Last Sigh and The Satanic Verses. I also liked Rushdie’s newer works, but they were less dense (which can be both good and bad!)

  29. This is one of my favorite books ever. I read it in a literature class in college. Beautiful book.

  30. This is one of my favorite books ever. I read it in a literature class in college. Beautiful book.

  31. I am about halfway through this book right now and really enjoying it even though I am often overloaded by the detail!

    It is interesting to hear his later works are even better – something for me to look forward to!

  32. I am about halfway through this book right now and really enjoying it even though I am often overloaded by the detail!

    It is interesting to hear his later works are even better – something for me to look forward to!

  33. Lovely movie & heard such music after ages! Def worth watching in the theatres. Superb acting by Ronit roy, rahul and Shahana also. Even darsheel was good.

  34. Lovely movie & heard such music after ages! Def worth watching in the theatres. Superb acting by Ronit roy, rahul and Shahana also. Even darsheel was good.

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