Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Midnight's Children

This will unquestionably be the most unpopular book our group has ever read. I was worried that it would also be the shortest meeting ever because I wasn't sure if anyone would actually come or have read it. We were delighted to be joined by Mary, who was attracted to us by this book selection. She said she had always wanted to read a Salman Rushdie and realized that a book club could be just the ticket. Haven't we said that ourselves?!

Cheryl reminded us that this book was selected as the Booker of Booker Award books. One reviewer said that it's a book of major importance book, the Indian version of A Thousand Years of Solitude. We all agreed that it was very inaccessible to read, that the writing was "obtuse" as one friend had said to me, but also a book we won't forget over time. Carolyn said she was reminded of Water for Chocolate, with all the mythology woven into the story as fact. Jenny said the writing reminded her of Isabelle Allende's works, very mystical. We acknowledged that it's a college curriculum material and an ambitious read.

Mary said that once she committed to read it, she realized that it was easier to read it for stretches of time - not a pick up and put down book. She also mentioned an important point that I had missed. Methwold was the father of Saleem, and hence the origin of blue eyes. We kept guessing at allegory because it was clear that everything was written on more than one level. We thought perhaps Methwold was allegory for the false state of the Raj as he himself was false. The very thing that made him so attractive to all the women was his wonderful hair, parted right down the middle. His last act before leaving his estate was to lift his false hair from his head and fling it away.

The community of the midnight children that congregated in Saleem's head was something we weren't able to get a handle on. Rushie wrote so much about noses, and when Saleem's was finally drained, the community ceased to exist. I'm sure a professor that teaches this book could enlighten us here. And the two - Shiva and Saleem - born at midnight and switched at birth. Who was better off for the switch? Mary Pereira who committed this act thought the poor child raised as rich would have an advantage, but was Saleem indeed advantaged by her act? Didn't living on the streets empower Shiva??

We weren't sure why the children born at the stroke of midnight on the eve of India's statehood received such magical powers and why those born further away from midnight had fewer powers - more allegory that perhaps if we were familiar with Indian history would make sense. Jenny said that she was pleased to learn so much about the history of that area, though it wasn't enough to make her want to finish the last 50 pages. She ceremoniously pulled out her book mark so she could check it back in. We talked for an hour, believe it or not, but we ran out of steam because there were so many unanswered questions.

We all had certain phrases that we shared because the writing had gripped us and we certainly agree that the man can write. We wished he had used fewer words, and so now we've read Salman Rushdie. I don't think any one of us is interested in reading him again. Cheryl kept asking, but who suggested it? Who knows? He won't get suggested again.

We concluded with a fascinating discussion with Diana about living in Fairbanks for 30 years and we were far more animated on that topic.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon, I loved this post and your last paragraph made me laugh outloud. Thanks to you and your group, I won't be rushing out to read me some Rushdie.

    You've also inspired me and here's a link to the Mystery Book Club blog:

    Keep up the good work!