By: Jonathan Cape (Random House)
Another Christmas book, this one destined to remain part of my collection. I have a lovely hardback copy of it. *pets*
Summary: The story is told from four perspectives--a former US ambassador to India, his daughter, her Indian mother and Shalimar the Clown, her mother's husband. It's a circular story in a sense, in that it begins in the 90s, with India (the ambassador's daughter) and then flashes back to explore the events and people that have made her who she is. In typical Rushdie style, everything connects to something else and the flow of cause-and-effect is circuitous, fatalistic and almost mythical in nature. He embues the story with a feeling of destiny, of inescapable fate.
India is the most sympathetic of the characters to me--the most memorable of Rushdie's female characters to date for me. The restless nature that in her mother led to over-indulgence, is present as a strength in India. She's a boxer, an archer, an obsessive control freak and a distant lover, and she is locked in her own world of prophetic or symbolic visions, but she's also grounded in the world of today, the world of Los Angeles, in a believable sense. I enjoyed other aspects of the book and I always enjoy Rushdie's writing, but she's what made it special for me.
Overall, the plot of this book was more intimate than Midnight's Children or The Satanic Verses. It didn't have the connection to greater themes that those two works had, even though I think Rushdie was striving for that. The story is very much framed as being about Kashmir, a region of India where Hindus and Muslims lived in relative harmony until the Indian, Pakistani and US governements and religious fanatics fragment and disrupt the population with devastating consequences. It also explores some post-9/11 anxieties about terrorists and the blurred boundaries between the personal and political. I responded strongly to the personal-political theme and I liked that Rushdie was choosing to explore this. But the other 9/11 links didn't work so well for me. Similarly the inclusion of the Los Angeles race riots was a bit lost on me... but it would be interesting to see what reviewers made of this. (I don't usually read in-depth reviews until I've read the work myself.) For me, this book is a return to form for Rushdie, but it's not his best work. It falls into the 'good solid read' category for me.
Verdict:It will definitely remain part of my collection and I'd be interested in reviews/discussion with anyone else who's read it. (Reminder to self: book club are interested in reading it at some stage.)