Midnight’s Children tells the life story of Saleem Sinai born at midnight on 15th August 1947 at the moment modern India became an independent state. Saleem’s somewhat timely arrival is not a coincidence; our protagonist’s life is destined to follow the ebb and flow of India’s own fortunes. He begins to discover the other children born in the first hour of India’s independence, all of whom have their own gifts, as we follow Saleem from cradle to fatherhood as he relates his story to his lover Padma.
This book is the second book from Salman Rushdie but is well-known as the book that launched his career. It is a fantasy book that has a footing in India’s history, providing as times an alternative reality and slightly contradicting version of the major events in India and Pakistan during the 20th century. I think the genre would be called Magical Realism which is a little ironic as one of the themes surrounding the narrator of the book, Saleem, is he is physically and mentally cracking up and losing his grip on reality, hence his need to write his memoirs.
What I liked about this book: The story line was great. There is so much in this book and absorbing the culture of India and Pakistan was a nice change to what I might normally read. The book continually moves from Saleem’s memories to the present, sometimes without warning, which takes some getting used to. However by doing this, Rushdie created this character that leapt off the page at me. I empathised with the impatience and frustration of his audience, the loyal Padma, as at times this book did frustrate me a lot. However this book is one of a kind, I don’t think you could compare it to anything else you have ever read.
What I didn’t like about this book: Saleem’s main theme is to show not only how the events of his life mirrored and sometimes affected the events of the nation but also how different things recur in his life. This sometimes washed over me as I found it hard to keep up with all the characters with their real names and their nicknames being constantly interchanged. As I said, the story line is great, but it was dragged out of Saleem in such a way that it lessened the magic quality of it for me. If it had been told in a more straight forward way with maybe slightly less character from the narrator, I would have enjoyed it more but then it would no longer be unique.
I think if I had a big enough gap in between to get over the effort required to read Midnight’s Children, I would consider reading another book by Salman Rushdie. He is most definitely a fantastic author, however his writing style is not compatible with my reading style. This should have been a book I could not put down, instead it took me almost 4 weeks to finish. I am just glad that I have tackled Midnight’s Children early on in my challenge as it had the capability to drive me insane. I will never forget this book for good reasons as well as not so good. All I would say to someone planning to read this is that you should, but be prepared.