Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie deserves some debriefing. After reading this you feel like you went on a mission or at least a serious undertaking that requires some after thoughts.
Midnight’s Children is weird and confusing and complicated and enjoyable. It is unforgettable. Though it is narrated as a memoir that starts with the lives of his grandparents, the plot is not really linear or even easy to find sometimes. Don’t read it casually though; you’ll miss important details. Events and people swirl through this novel; they’re here then they blow in and out then back again. Don’t read it if you want the plot to unfold nicely and clearly. But read it if you enjoy creativity, mystery, and a little magic.
Saleem Sinai, of cucumber nose fame, lived many lifetimes in his 31 years. He along with 1,000 other babies were born in the midnight hour of August 15, 1947 at the same time as India’s independence. He is as old as his ancient country. You’d think this narration of his life for his son comes from a ragged, seasoned old man. It comes from a ragged, seasoned young man. He’s a man with the weight of his birthright “Midnight’s Children” and forefront in his mind is how his apparent happenstance life revolved around it.
Here’s a recap: Significant in Saleem’s life is the life of his grandfather Aadam and his wife the Reverend Mother, his mother Amina who was Mumtaz who was once married to Nadir who became Qasim. There was his sister the Brass Monkey who became Jamila Singer; Mary his nanny who becomes Mrs. Barganza of Barganza Pickles Ltd, the woman who irreversibly alters his life then saves it in the end. There’s aunts knitting contempt into his clothing and uncles marrying movie stars and walking off buildings. There’s India and Pakistan and even Bangladesh. There’s Bombay and New Dehli and Kashmir. There’s the Sundarban jungles with his military unit where he serves as blood hound. There’s Pavarti the Witch and Padma the Dung Goddess. There’s Picture Singh the Most Charming Man in the World and the other street performance folk. There’s his son who’s not his son and his family who are not his family and his country which is not his country. There are the other Children of Midnight and their gifts and the Widow who runs the country who seeks to destroy them all. And Shiva, the only other child born at the stroke of midnight like Saleem, whose birth and fate lie intertwined with him.
Most significantly is the narrator who is called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha, and Piece of the Moon. He carries his story through all these places and all these people while trying to explain, justify, understand, and authenticate his own embattled life.
This isn’t an easy book but it’s a book that will stay with you. I’m not sure I understand it all though I read over some parts twice. I loved this book but would recommend it to very few. You have to be committed; you have to buckle your seat belt for the tumult, hazards, and mixed up realities.