Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

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This is book six in my attempt to read fifty books in 2005.

Rushdie is one of those authors who I really want to like. Many people think he is one of the most important writers of the late 20th century. Like many people, the first of his books that I attempted was The Satanic Verses and like many people I gave up after just a few chapters.

But Midnight’s Children is generally accepted as his best work. It won the Booker Prize in 1981 and the “Booker of Bookers” in 1993. I was determined to enjoy it.

But I have to say that I didn’t enjoy it at all. I can see why people like it. I can see why people think it’s an important and interesting novel. But I can’t see why people put up with Rushdie’s over-complex prose style. To me, that made the book close to unreadable. He also fills his writing with religious and cultural references that I didn’t get and that also diminished my enjoyment.

I mentioned that last point to my wife who is a big fan of the book and she (quite rightly) pointed out that Tom Stoppard also throws in obscure cultural references and I always enjoy his work. Thinking about it, the difference is that I get all of Stoppard’s clever references and therefore reading him makes me feel cleverer. I estimate that I get about 10% of Rushdie’s clever references and therefore reading him makes me feel stupid.

So I don’t like this book as it makes me feel stupid.

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