I do not have the book with me, as I write the review.
And, I have been reading the book ever since I was in 7th standard. Not reading and re-reading, but reading. The story of me, and the novel, can very well be an epic.
Warning: this is completely off-the-track
So, like every other 19-year old, I was once a 13 year old, who had made up her mind to read a book every week. From really crappy books (The star book of horror stories) to the classics (A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) to the contemporary ones, she had read at least 3 pages of every book she could coerce her parents to buy or threaten her friends to issue from the school library. While her bookshelves were groaning under the pressure of unread books which never saw the light of the day because they failed to impress the tyrannous teenager in their first 3 pages, some were biding their time.
So this particular book , ‘The Midnight’s Children’, emblazoned with a golden sticker proclaiming it to be the ‘bookers of the bookers’, was one of them. Some strange sorcery it knew. How the story of me finally managing to complete the book, and the story of the book itself, are related, will be revealed shortly.
The review begins :
The very first pages greeted me with some very strange vivid imagery. And with the narrator nowhere in the picture in the first book, I, who was well-accustomed to reading linear, straight-simple plots which give out the significance of the title from the first page itself, grew more and more frustrated and shut the book close, and watched it grow musty and dusty on my shelves with some sadistic pleasure.
But then, on our trip to Kashmir, some years later, the images from the book haunted me. I saw Kashmir through the looking-glass of the narrator; the dal lake was the place where the german lady killed herself, the people were the hypocrites Aadam Aziz despised.
So I had to resume reading the book, only to stop reading it at some point, a few days later; because the book-reading season had ended, and JEE preparation had to start.
By the end of JEE preparation, some force within me was determined to finish the hideously impossible-to-finish book. While reading the book, I had already read a total of 5 novels, and finally reached the end after a year when I had to read the book all over again, at one go, in a day, not sleeping at all for that period.
Phew? So, now, where is the parallel? Like the aforesaid period of over six years, with the last day being the only meaningful day, the story spans a long period of time, starting from the time before independence, till the anniversary of India’s independence. Sometimes you wonder why the author had to tell you the history to everything, which has only metaphorical significance later on, and perhaps makes up for an interesting read. And while I (miserably) try to draw a parallel here, the book is entirely a parallel between the life of a man, born at the stroke of midnight, the time India became an independent country and blessed with supernatural powers (of telepathy and an acute sense of smell), and the history of the country he was born in.
The parallels are not very evident, and you have to put in a lot of effort, without really knowing why you are doing that, to ‘get’ it. Infact, the author himself has to specify the not-so-evident parallels through the course of the story.
Now, moving on to the rest.
The book is magnificently written. Not beautifully, neither poignantly, but magnificently. The images are high-definition vivid. So vivid, they can actually nauseate you.The storyline is epic. Not effortless. Neither touching. But epic. You will rarely find a book like it, which will challenge your senses to imagine more and more, to rack your brains....and all the while you will want to stop reading the book, only to continue reading it after sometime. And,very much like the absolutely unnecessary beginning of the piece I’ve written, you’ll find most parts totally unnecessary.Only later you realize you enjoyed reading the unnecessary portion more than you did the rest.
You wonder, is it because the author wants you to believe that the book is not the work of a master storyteller, but is exactly, precisely the narrative of a normal person who is telling the story of his life, unbelievable, modified at times to make it seem grand?
The descriptions tend to be...completely crazy at times. You think, do people write this way? Is this how stories are supposed to be told? All of the facts naked, with absolutely not concealing anything? So much will some lines, phrases, mesmerise you, that anything the book describes, you will never be able to describe it in your own words. Your eyes will be Saleem Sinai’s eyes.
I am not too sure if the book will be an enjoyable read. It is an open challenge. But it adds something to you. Perspective? Images? A hell lot of confusion? I don’t know. You will always have this “I haven’t read the book properly” feeling in your head.
And you would never want to write a review for the book.
I don’t know why I wrote the review. And I don’t even have the book with me now.
-- Contributed by Anamika Agrawal