I finished Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie a few days ago, and it's taken me a bit of time to process how exactly I feel about it.
Why this book?
This book has been on my mind for a while. It always comes up in those "100 books that will change your life" type lists online. Plus it's won pretty much every writing award. I really had no expectations about this book. I didn't know what it was about, just that it was highly praised.
Really Quick Synopsis (no spoilers)
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on the day that India gains it's independence. Because of this, he is endowed with supernatural powers and his life is destined to parallel the trials and tribulations of India itself. The book is told in first-person from Saleem's point of view as he looks back on what he's experienced in his life.
Impressions and Thoughts
While I came in with no expectations, this book was really hard for me to grasp. It's not necessarily difficult to read in the way that it's written, it's just dense. It's certainly not a page-turner. It took me 4 months to read - which is really quite a while for me. There is so much imagery, allegory, fantastic stories, stream of consciousness, etc. that you almost have to "chunk" it out and take time to reflect on each chunk.
I think I could have gotten a lot more out of the book and what it really means if I read this in a "class" type setting. It begs to be discussed in an academic setting with someone who can really pick apart the writing style as well as correlate it to the history of India.
That being said, there were times that the only thing keeping me going was my love of India. This book really gave me those "awwww" feelings as I remembered some of the places I traveled and people I met the few times I was there. If I had no understanding or desire to understand the kinds of religious or even "mythical" qualities of India, I think I would have put this book down within the first 200 pages.
As you can tell, I don't actually have a clear "I loved it" or "I hated it" opinion. It was a tough read and sometimes it was rewarding, but not always. It's certainly not for everyone, but I would recommend reading the first 100 pages to see if it's your thing. Then choose to continue or not.
Rating out of 100
I'd give this a solid B, probably about an 83. If I ever get the chance to discuss this in a classroom setting, I think my rating would be much higher. You probably need to appreciate this as an amalgam of fantasy, fiction, history, historical fiction, etc. and to do that I really need someone more knowledgeable at the helm.
What's up next?
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
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