Before he wrote "Satanic Verses", he wrote "Midnight's Children". And before he was sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini, he won the Booker Prize for literature. Although he's known world wide for his controversial 4th novel that earned him a multi-million dollar prize for his head (and banned in several countries, including Singapore), it is his second novel we're going to read this month, the one that won him literary acclaim. Death schmeth.
Here's the publisher's review...
In the moments of upheaval that surround the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the day India proclaimed its independence from Great Britain, one thousand and one children are born — each of whom, though forced to struggle through hardships faced by citizens of a newly independent country, is gifted with supernatural powers.Midnight's Children focuses on the fates of two of these children — the illegitimate son of a poor Hindu woman and the male heir of a wealthy Muslim family — who become inextricably linked when a midwife switches the two boys at birth.
An allegory of modern India, Midnight's Children is a family saga set against the volatile events in the thirty years following the country's independence — the partitioning of India and Pakistan, the rule of Indira Gandhi, the onset of violence and war, and the imposition of martial law. It is a magical and haunting tale of both fragmentation and the struggle for identity that links personal life with national history.
And here's a reader's review…
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.
New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club? Here's what you need to know:
1. Read the book (If you don't manage to finish it by the meetup date, don't worry. As long as you're not going to be too disappointed by spoilers, you're still welcome to join.)
2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month
3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space
4. Discuss! It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.