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Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

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    7 Reviews
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      04.08.2012 15:23
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      A tough book to get your teeth into but worth having ago. A book that is dividing people.

      This book had been recommended to me by lots of people so I finally felt it was time to sit down and read it. I have to admit depending on the genre you enjoy reading it is definitely a daunting prospect as it is a long book with very small print but I would advise you don't let this put you off.

      A VERY brief plot outline (I'd hate to spoil the story for you) Midnight's Children is a story of Saleem Sinai, a child born on the stroke of midnight as India gains it's independence and the powers he possesses. It then tells the story of his struggle through life as the historical changes happen in India and the surrounding countries and how every act he undertakes is mirrored in India's history.

      I loved the cross over of history and fiction and it led me to read around the text and find out more about Indian history and the disputes between it's now neighbouring countries Pakistan and Bangladesh. However I also enjoyed the fictional story of Saleem and his family and their emotional saga.

      My advice would be to not undertake the reading of this book lightly, at times it was very heavy going and unless you have a grasp of basic Indian vocab, places and names eg Begum, Sarasvati the pace of reading can be quite slow. I did have to re-read parts (which is never enjoyable) as I felt I had missed/misunderstood parts of the text. You must however persevere because although it did not excite me the way I had hoped following the awards it had won, it was still worth reading.

      Having had discussions with people regarding this text, it really does seem to divide people. I personally would recommend you read it and stick with it, even through the tough times. It really isn't for everybody and I would not recommend this book as a light holiday. If 50 shades of Grey is your kind of thing then I would avoid this book it really isn't for the faint hearted.

      An enjoyable read but don't take on this book lightly.

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        29.05.2011 14:11
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        Immerse yourself in this unique novel: there's nothing else quite like it!

        Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is an intelligent and touching book. Written in the 1980s, Midnight's Children follows the changing roles in India as the country gains independence, and the consequences for Indian people following this poignant historical event.

        The main character in the novel is Saleem Sinai, who is born at the exact moment that India gains independence. Saleem therefore has magic powers- the book makes frequent forays into magical realism and superstition, as well as Indian traditions and an insight into the mind of a very special little boy. Whether his powers are real or not does not matter: what matters is who he is becoming in this new age. Saleem wishes to gather all the 'Midnight's Children' in order to ascertain their powers and to give them a kind-of independence of their own, but various things happen to stand in his way. As he struggles to find his own path and tell his own story, Saleem also flits between varying names, including Snotnose, Baldy, Stainface, Buddha, and Piece-of-the-Moon. This is typical Rushdie humour, and it can be found throughout the book.

        The multi-layered narrative of Midnight's Children becomes steadily more complicated as it progresses. Saleem's family have their own stories to tell, and the face of changing India throws him into new and unprecedented situations. Although the plot can be hard to follow at times, it is also intricate and vibrant, with uniquely beautiful descriptions and use of colour throughout the book, which create a real sense of place for the reader. Although Rushie writes about religious and political differences in India at this time, overall the book is about the connections between human beings, and their connections to their country and its history. In this novel, people are tethered to history, and they cannot escape it.

        Midnight's Children is a funny, light-hearted and very original novel, not meant to be taken too seriously, but designed for the reader to immerse himself in, as Rushdie invites us into the realm of fairytales of the Eastern variety. If you haven't read any Rushie before, I definitely recommend this book.

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          11.01.2009 11:08
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          Worth a try but dont expect something fantastic.

          I'd been nagged by loads of people to read this book, as its supposedly "the best book going". Well, to be frank, it wasnt. I battled through to half way before I finally gave up. A lot of people would be put off before reachng that point due to the length of the book and the reeeally small print. but i thought i'd give it a go nonetheless. I was confused for most of it, not really sure what was going on and found it difficult to relate to the characters as there was so many of them! if you're thinking of giving this book a go - by all means try it - but dont expect it to live up to the hype that surrounds it. Maybe its because I'm young and read more "modern" authors, that i didnt get on with it as this book was written some years ago.

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            24.05.2002 18:54
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            Errrm....well, what do I think about the 'Booker of Bookers' (i.e. the best novel that has won the Booker prize) 'Midnight's Children'? I have to admit that I was simultaneously, confused, entertained, enlightened, bored, and disappointed. Everyone has been telling me for years that I must read Salman Rushdie's masterpiece claiming that it is one of the best books of all time. Perhaps it is, but for me it wasn't. Anyway let's get on with the story. To cut a very long, complicated and amazing story short, 'Midnight's Children' is the story of the life of Saleem Sinai. And the story of India as well. Saleem is born exactly at the stroke of midnight on the eve of India's Independence from British colonialism, and subsequently his life becomes inseparably intwined with the history of the country. All the children born in this hour gain magical powers, and are called the Midnight's Children somewhat unsurprisingly. Among the children are Parvati the Witch who has complete command of sorcery, a girl so beautiful that whoever sees her is blinded, a child who can change gender etc. Saleem's own power is not discovered until later in life when he realises that he can inhabit the minds of people, but this power is soon lost and replaced by an amazingly enhanced sense of smell. However, for the most part, all of this is an irrelevancy to the main theme of the novel, which seems to be the individual's relationship with the world around him or her. Rushdie, explores how all of us interact with the world around us, and see ourselves simultaneously, as having our histories formed by society, and also projecting our own imagination onto the world, and carving out our own version of it. In the novel, Rushdie attempts to use the imagination to carve out some form of reality. He is convinced that the 'real' world is as unconvincing as our own fantasies, because it is essentially made up of
            everybody else's fantasies. Therefore, the novel tries to find a balance between the fantastical and the factual. The supernatural events of the novel (such as the magic powers of the children) sit next to a plain account of the events in the history of India such as the Indo-China war. Thus, what we have, is a strange but compelling version of 'reality' whereby the personal engagement with the world, and that world's engagement with us, become totally inseparable. Saleem, for example is convinced that the purpose of the war in the novel is to wipe out his family, it is though he believes that he is the focus of history. However, he is constantly recapitualing the events of the novel, and explaining the events and people who have brought him to where he is. Therefore, what we have, is a an attempt to find our place in the world, a stable reality that is suitable for both the individual and the rest of the world as well, and Rushdie believes that this can only be achieved through the imagination. It is though the novel is a map of the imagination, and a map of relaity and a map of the world all at once, and an exploration of how they all form, and are formed by each other. Sorry if that's all a bit boring and incomprehensible, but I needed to explain it in order to justify my main gripe with the novel. This criticism rests around the fact that, for all the book's amazing and intricate textures, its vibrant exhibition of the imagination, and its multi-layered narratives, it left me emotionally cold. It is as though the book is one big cerebral encyclopaedia rather than something that connects with you (or at least me personally) on an emotional level. Undoubtedly, the writing itself is exquisite and draws the reader in with its ingenuity, but it just doesn't have that effect where you are desperate to know what happens next because you are so deeply concerned for the characters involved. At times when reading 'Midnight's Ch
            ildren', I could just imagine Salman Rushdie sitting back with a smug grin on that hairy face of his, thinking how clever he is. Having just said that, the architecture of the book is quite simply stunning. Saleem's story weaves through history, anticipating the future, and recounting and the past as he goes, in order to create a space for RIGHT NOW. It appears to be the case, that the ugly narrator's main objective in the novel is to mould the events of the past in order to justify his present and clear way for the future. Thus, whilst we are inclined to take his every word for gospel, at one point he admits that he misinforms the reader with regards to the historical truth, somewhat inadvertenly, but also to suit his needs. Therefore, if we can't trust the narrator and his version of history, who can we trust. What is history? Is it real? Just because it is written down, must we accept it as reality, or are there countless different historical 'realities'? All of this makes you think indeed, but it doesn't make you FEEL. But perhaps that wasn't Rushdie's aim in the novel. There have also been several accusations that this novel is parasitic upon Indian culture. Some people believe that Rushdie is getting his material by applying his Westernised views to the land of his birthplace, and hence looking at it from a position of assumed superiority. I have to be honest, I did get that sense slightly. It is though he is belittling those steeped in tradition (fair enough in my view, but not exactly P.C.), and objective beliefs in history and religion. Something that got him in a whole lot of shit with the 'Satanic Verses'. I'm rating this book, as I experienced it. I quite happily admit that it deserves 10/10, but for me it just gets 6/10.

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              24.10.2001 18:28
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              This is a book that, due to its size, the acclaim it has attracted, and its painfully small type face, you may be put off from reading. I can say with all confidence that had I not been obliged to read it for a course, I would probably have lost my nerve somewhere in the first three pages. I was very soon thinking "My intellect is not equal to this text." However, as the book unfolds it starts to make a great deal more sense, and from a quite inexplicable start, goes on to tell an impressive tale. The premise is this. The children born at midnight on the day of India's independance are all possesed of strange an unusual powers. The tale is narrated by Saleem Sinai, 31 at the time of writing and the first of the midnight's children. We follow his early life, and the history of his family, twined up with the history of an emerging country. (This will make next to no sense in places if you know nothing about India's history but stick with it.) The plot of this novel is hard to explain, because its not about development in any linear way, its about people and their families, about a country and much of it is symbolic. There are many tales within the tales and it can make it all a touch hard to follow. Tehre are elements of lief in india that may seem exotic, incomprehensible to Western readers - it certainly goes a long way towards shattering the myth of there global village. I would like to tell you about the powers of the children born at midnight, and about their fate, but these revelations would spoil the plot. Their fate is entwined with india's politics, their birth symbolic perhaps of the new hope and energy of the reborn India. Some are psychic, some too ebautiful to be looked at, some are warriors, others magicians. They are almost unreal, too amazing for the mundane world we know, too fragile to survive long. A few concepts from the course then. Firstly, magical realism (other authors in this area,
              Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez)this is the mixing of fantasy and reality, usually drawing on the traditional beliefs that have been stifled by colonialism. It can be very unsettling, but is exciting stuff. Post Colonialsim - this is a genre as well. There's a lot of fiction about getting over having been a colonial country, and of the cultural mix that tends to result - England left a mark on India and Rushdie seems very conscious of this. Finally, Chutney. There are reoccuring themes in the book about food preservation, culminating in Saleem's chutney industry. Thirty chapters, almost one for every year of the narroators life. A pickle for every year as well. Rushdie/Saleem is preserving history, capturing it, drying it, turning the living moment into something that can be saved. The book is terrible self conscious, referencing other peices of literature (especially English ones) and could be called "Meta-fiction" if you were into labels. This book is like an onion, every time you remove a layer of emaning, there is another layer underneath waiting for you. (Ok, some sort of infinite onion then, probably waiting to be pickled.....) If you don't like long, slow moving texts with little obvious 'plot' then avoid this book because you willd etest it. If you are fine with long ehavy novels, if you can read Victorian literature without flinching, then you are well equipped to give this one a go. It certainly isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea - a shame because the story is fantastic. I felt enormously pleased with myself just for managing to read it. I am going to recomend it, but not to anyone who only reads light paperbacks.

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                13.05.2001 23:31
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                OK, you expect a book from Mr Rushdie to be good, especially one that has notched up the prizes that this book has. It’s that good and better. The story is very good and very exciting. The characters are totally believable even though this is essentially a fairy story, the narrator of the story calls it a kind of collective fantasy. Magical abilities of varying kinds are endowed upon the children born on midnight. It’s told with the authors usual lyrical imagery. It is told beautifully. The story is also that of Indian Independence, an invention reflective of the experiment that the children of midnight are a part of, the struggles they face a reflection of the stresses that the unified nation state faced in particular the bad relations with Pakistan. The book allegorically accepts the problems and struggles of a unified state from a minority point if view, while also demonstrating the inevitability of it and offering an optimistic forecast. However I will not go into the historical and political aspects of the book because even if the reader has not the slightest interest in Indian history or politics Midnight’s Children still offers a beautiful, thought provoking and enthralling story. Like the other excellent opinions of this book, I too would highly recommend it to my friends, in fact I actively encourage them to read it. I can’t praise this book enough, so I will stop here and instead hope that you will get hold of a copy and if you haven’t already done so, then read it for yourself. It may not change your life, but I defy anyone to read this book and not gain something from it.

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                  02.10.2000 05:43
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                  Salman Rusdie is a fascinating writer. Midnight's Children tells the story of the birth of Indian Independance and the story teller's life mirrors that struggle. It is a very deep book and I found that I got a lot more from it on the second and third readings. To be honest, it is quite hard going the first time you read it, but its worth carrying on. The real impact isn't felt until you read it again. Rushdie's obviously passionate feelings about the events that took place at this time in Indian history, become clear as the story progresses. I do notice an odd thing about the writer as I got deeper into the book. He seems to have a minor obsession with food. There were many analogies and references to foodstuffs. His description of his 'pickle' was one of the best. I won't spoil it by explaining that one. You will have to read the book to find out.

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                Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously 'handcuffed to history' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.