Review: Midnight’s Children

*** = three stars =  no spoilers!

WHY I CHOSE IT: After battling my way through 600 pages of Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, I knew it had to be one of my first reviews. I’ve been reading this book for over three months and it’s been hard going. I‘ve even managed to read about seven or eight other books while slogging away at it.

I chose to read this book because of the current political and security situation in Kashmir. The current atrocities that are being reported are appalling, and this novel really opened my eyes to the legacy of events that occurred during the formation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A controversial figure, Rushdie’s fourth novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, provoked protests from Muslims around the world. Nevertheless, Midnight’s Children is an excellent example of post-colonial, post-modern literature.

THE PLOT: The novel follows Saleem Sinai, a young boy born at midnight on the eve of India’s independence from Britain. The narrative is not linear so the plot starts with Saleem’s grandfather in Kashmir and spans from India’s Independence, the formation of Pakistan, and wars between the two superpowers, including wars with China and Bangladesh. Saleem narrates the novel as though he is writing a memoir. Although I usually love a fallible narrator, it is a bit frustrating because he jumps back and forth in time, often correcting details of his own life story. As the writing is very literary, it is very cumbersome in places, making it difficult to follow the plot. However, I particularly enjoyed the scenes of Saleem growing up in Bombay and his formation of the Midnight Children’s Conference. The magical realism infused throughout the novel lead to a lot of unexplained or extraordinary events, but there are lots of enjoyable scenes.

MY RATING: Although a famous classic, this book receives three stars because I found it a bit of a chore to read. The literary style and unreliable narrator serve an important purpose in the novel’s construction so I appreciate the high-art that Rushdie has created. However, I personally found the sentences that went on and on and on, with never-ending sub clauses, and the lack of punctuation, a little tiring.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.” P 535.

P.S. Visit https://www.standwithkashmir.org/ if you would like more information about the genocide alert for India Administered Kashmir.