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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on November 2, 2000
I feel about Salman Rushdie's first big book roughly the same way I feel about Indian food. The food features a fascinating melange of spices, smells and textures, but I have no desire to consume it. Nor do I particularly comprehend the attraction of the cuisine of a dirt poor Third World country with more dietary taboos than you can shake a sitar at and, while heavy spicing is a perfectly logical substitute for substance, at the end of the meal one longs to ask: "Where's the beef?". Similarly, in his novel, Rushdie combines his signature Magical Realist style and the actual historical background of India since Independence with the family history of the Sinai's to create a bewildering mess of a novel that is heavy on Bombay slang. The language is pungent but indecipherable and the story is ambitious but confusing. The linguistic pyrotechnics and luxuriant prose have displaced the meat of the story.
I actually believe that India offers a unique opportunity to the author of today. With the end of the Cold War and peace in the Middle East, South Africa and Northern Ireland, many of the settings that offered built in tension have disappeared. India, however, remains a corrupt political state, is rife with ethnic tension and is nearly at war with both Pakistan and China. There are so many latent plot lines that it would seem an irresistible setting and I very much enjoyed books like Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (1993). But, both are much more traditional, Western-style novels. As is usually the case, the injection of magical realism into Rushdie's story ends up detracting from his tale rather than enhancing it. The effort to create an Indian, or postcolonial, style did not work for me; a straightforward narrative, stripped of hocus pocus gimmickry, would have been much more enjoyable.
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on October 1, 1998
For a book that has received so much praise this is maddeningly self-indulgent. Rushdie details the struggles of partitioning and the development of India with fantastic skill but the main plot is too self-aware. In any other guise this might be described as fantasy but, of course, it is too worthy to be listed as such. Tiresome in the extreme despite the poetic nature of the prose, this is one to read if you want to show off at dinner parties.
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on November 2, 1998
My explanation for two- and five- star ratings for the book is just the opposite of what an earlier review surmised. I believe it is 5-star by those people who know India/Pakistan only superficially and so assume that Rushdie is on to something; it also includes the Macaulayites or those Indians/Pakis who have learned about it secondhand from English books. Often the word-play, puns, or etymologies used by Rushdie don't make sense.
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on September 14, 2001
Rushdie is so in love with his own writing and condescending of his reader that he feels it necessary to explain his themes and symbols, and to periodically review the main points of the story. I admit that I enjoyed the first few chapters and some of the wordplay, but most of it is out-of-control, self-indulgent rubbish. It is very disappointing to me that this book has won so much critical acclaim.
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on July 30, 1998
The book is too extravagant. The word play is often totally baseless (such as dung-lotus for Padma), although Western readers may not be knowledgable enough about the background to know that, and the racy plot has scenes like in a cartoon book. Very clever but certainly not literature that will stand the test of time. Rushdie's `Satanic Verses' is a much better novel.
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on January 16, 2000
I guess you have to be a historian on India and its culture because if you are not (like myself), the book was confusing. I could not distinguish the fantasy from the reality - which may have been the intent. Although I fell short on understanding, I feel that Rushdie is an artist in the literary sense.
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on September 13, 1998
It is a strange thing that the modern elites of India are unconnected to their own civilization and for them impressing the westerner is the most important task. Rushdie is the perfect example of such an Indian. For an authentic view of India we must still turn to V.S. Naipaul.
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on August 5, 1998
The book is a allegorical polemic, done in great style. It has flashes of brilliance and very clever passages. But ultimately, it fails to transcend the contortions of its plot to great, universal literature.
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on May 9, 2012
I bought this book because Salman Rushdie is a world renowned writer and this is a very popular book. This is my first Salman Rushdie book and I am finding his style of writing very tiring. After 150 pages, reading this book has become a chore. I know Indian history and can relate to almost all the historical events referenced so far. I would not recommend this book for someone who does not know about India's history of the times around her independence.
I hope the book will get more interesting later on. If it does and I like it better than I like it now; I'll write another review.
So far it is two stars for me.
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