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A book to live with...
on 18 May 2007
Like many, I intially read this at University and didn't really enjoy it, but there is a huge gulf between reading and studying and when I came across it again on a forgotten book shelf I thought, "Well, it won the Booker of Bookers, I must've missed something." With this in mind, I read it again and oh, my goodness, I'm glad I did. I certainly missed something. Actually, I missed rather a lot (and not just lectures).
Midnight's Children deserves a place alongside One Hundred Years of Solitude as one of the finest examples of Magic Realism. It is allegorical, reflecting India's development as a country and more loosely Rushdie's own childhood, but the books stands up as a piece of writing in its own merit. The writing is vibrant; the (many) characters are well-observed; the humour is delightful; and the story is melancholy and touching in places but is stuffed with examples of Rushdie's elegant style.
To me, it is more than just an allegory for the birth and development of a nation, it is more than a great piece of writing; Midnight's Children has become an evocative depiction of how we seek to find things to lift ourselves from the futility of existence, to separate ourselves from the normal. By way of example, I give you Saleem's birth. It is normal in every way apart from the accident of timing that gives the book its title but it's the way he uses this accident of timing to lift his existence away from the mundane that I love.
Finishing this book left me hollow and a little lost. In short, I loved it and have subsequently read it again and again. Rushdie has done nothing that matches this. I doubt he, or anyone, can.