Midnight's Children (Review)

Labels: Great Works

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Midnight's Children
Salman Rushdie, 1981
560 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2008
No other book in the English language is quite so decorated as Midnight's Children. It won the Booker Prize in 1981...then won the Booker of the Bookers in 1993...then the Best of the Bookers 15 years later. No other work has walked away with those awards.

Like Toni Morrison's Beloved or Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, the novel has become one of a handful of contemporary classics.

Set in India, Midnight is part family saga and part national epic—a three generational story set during the years leading up to and after the country's independence. The story is told through the eyes of Saleem Sinai, whose birth at the stroke of midnight coincides with India's own birth, the very second of its independence. From that point on, events in Saleem's life reflect his country's struggle for unity, coherence, and national purpose.

We're drawn into the frenzied—and hilarious—workings of Saleem's extended family and neighbors — many of whom gain our affection. Much of what happens we are told beforehand; thus, suspense is replaced by a feeling of inevitability—of destiny working itself out. What keeps us turning the page is the sheer imaginative genius of Salman Rushdie. (What was the man on when he wrote this?)

Midnight's Children is a riotous conglomeration of realism and magical realism, hilarity and fury, hope and disillusionment. It's like nothing you've ever read...except, perhaps, One Hundred Years of Solitude, with which it shares its excursion into the surreal. (I actually enjoyed Midnight more.)

Caution: this read is for the hardy...it's long, involved, and at times densely textured. But it 's a roller coaster of a ride, or maybe a tilt-a-whirl instead. It's one you won't forget.

See our Reading Guide for Midnight's Children.

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