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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Anyone who has been paying attention knows I love the Man Booker Prize. I love the contest and I enjoy reading the books nominated. It's the one prize that I actively pay attention to (two weeks until the 2015 long list is announced, by the way). I'm excited to open any Booker winner.

 

It's no surprise therefore that I eagerly anticipated Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. Not only was this novel selected as the Booker winner in 1981, but it went on to win the Booker of the Bookers in 1993 and the fan-selected Best of the Booker in 2008. That's a whole lotta Booker. How could I not love this book?

 

I didn't love it. In fact, I eagerly hoped the end would come much sooner than it did. Perhaps it was the expectation, but I don't think so. Midnight's Children was just too farcical for my taste. It was also very cultural. Those intimately involved in the story of India's history and culture are sure to understand this novel much more than I did. And if I loved the story and the voice, I might have made an effort to learn the history. But I didn't love anything about it. It was written well. There were certainly many memorable scenes throughout. But the comical, Dickens-like approach to everything grated my patience. The voice of Saleem Sinai, so repetitive, so whimsical... ugh, so what?

 

Midnight's Children is clever and written well, but for me it wasn't memorable. At its best, it reminded me of magical epic historical family sagas such as Middlesex and One Hundred Years of Solitude. At its worst, it reminded me of a precocious child who doesn't know when to shut up.

 

I'd like to say more good about this novel, but frankly I struggled too much with getting through it to really enjoy it. The question in my mind at this point is whether this is Rushdie's style, or merely the voice of his protagonist. Either way, I think Rushdie's non-fiction is my next step.

 

Now, any predictions on this year's Booker?