Book #83: Midnight’s Children
Finally, I finished Midnight’s Children.
That’s not an indictment of the novel, although it isn’t necessarily a light-hearted, quick read by any means. At 500+ pages, Midnight’s Children isn’t the type of novel you’re going to plow through in a couple of days. That said, it shouldn’t take a couple of months, like it took me, either.
Midnight’s Children is an interesting novel. It’s part allegory, part historical fiction, part something called “magical realism.” It’s a well thought out, extremely detailed book. It’s the type of book that, as you’re reading, you have a feeling that you might be missing something. For most of the time, I was thinking…am I smart enough to read this novel?
Salman Rushdie is quite obviously a brilliant writer. With Midnight’s Children, he crafted an intricate novel with layers and layers of complexity.
The plot centers around Saleem Sinai, the Indian narrator who is born at the exact moment of India’s independence on August 15, 1947. A group of kids born that night in the hours between midnight and 1 a.m. have special powers, with Saleem having the power of telepathy. Because he was born exactly at midnight, he has the strongest of these powers. But this isn’t The Avengers or something silly like that.
It was prophesied that the child born at midnight of India’s independence would be the country’s savior. Saleem’s the one. No pressure, Saleem.
So the story follows Saleem as he grows into adulthood and all the hijinks that go along with a prophesied savior becoming a man. The story parallels the growth of India as a nation and is divided into three separate “books.”
The storytelling technique Rushdie uses is unique. Saleem, the narrator, is telling the story to his future wife, Padma. The technique works and give Rushdie a way to remind the reader of the story’s context.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the novel has been the center of controversy over the years. As Wikipedia explains:
“In 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought an action against the book in the British courts, claiming to have been defamed by a single sentence in chapter 28, penultimate paragraph, in which her son Sanjay Gandhi is said to have had a hold over his mother by his accusing her of contributing to his father’s Feroze Gandhi’s death through her neglect. The case was settled out of court when Salman Rushdie agreed to remove the offending sentence.”
Some people weren’t big fans of Rushdie after Midnight’s Children came out. And I haven’t read Satanic Verses, but supposedly it’s even more controversial. Some Muslims weren’t big fans.
In all, Midnight’s Children is a good, complex novel. I’ve probably had my fill of it, though, and won’t be revisiting this one anytime in the near future, if ever.
However, the novel did pique my interest enough to want to read more of Rushdie’s work in the future. I’ll get on that whenever I finish this God-forsaken list of books.
The Opening: “I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time.”
The Meaning: The title refers to the children in India born between midnight and 1 a.m. on the morning of the country’s independence. They were born with special powers.
Highlights: This novel has a lot of complexity and depth with well-developed characters. You get the feeling that you’re sitting in history as it develops, with the story paralleling India’s independence and growth as a country.
Lowlights: I couldn’t help but feel detached from the story, moreso than a normal novel. I can’t necessarily explain why. Just had a feeling of disconnect from the characters and setting.
Memorable Line: “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.”
Final Thoughts: Good book. Worth your time if you appreciate creative, historical fiction. However, it’s a dense, complex read. Don’t expect to fly through this one.