Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Review by Tyler Samien

Let’s just clear it up from the start, Midnight’s Children is a masterpiece. It has received not only the Man Booker Prize for Fiction but also the Booker of Bookers Prize, (the best of books given the Booker). The way Rushdie plays with the plot’s timeline through narration and connection to the supposed present is incredibly well-done. The magical realism, the children’s powers, his life being tied to the life of India are all stimulating inclusions. The touching moments between characters, the details of their relationships could only have been written by an author empathetic to the lives of people around him. Yada yada, masterpiece yada yada, so on and so forth. Let’s get to the point of this review: I didn’t much enjoy reading Midnight’s Children.

It’s a long book by my standards; over 500 pages of medium-small print. Completing it took a considerable chunk of time, of life, from me. I don’t regret reading. Like I said, it’s a masterpiece, masterpieces are worth the time. But I often found myself flipping ahead to find the next chapter, or line, break. I frequently reread because I wasn’t interested enough in what was presented to keep from being distracted. I felt like I was reading an uncut version of a book that had been awarded masterpiece status in reduced form.

To make it worse, something drags in Midnight’s Children and I think it’s a lack of interesting sub-text, of spirituality, of unifying theme in a book that sets itself up to be all about such substance. I don't get the same sense of depth and insight from Rushdie I get from other "masters" like Ian McEwen or Ayn Rand. It's hardly academic to make such a statement without backing it up. But I did and won't. This review is opinion, not analysis.

I’ll get to the Satanic Verses eventually out of respect for its reputation, but it’s hard for me to recommend Midnight’s Children as highly as the folks behind the Booker Prize when there are other masterful pieces I’ve found enjoyable and inspiring in a more thorough and consistent manner. But read it for yourself if you’ve no other masterpieces lined up. Rushdie is smart, he’s clever, he’s controversial, he has a unique style, intelligent vocabulary, and ideas I haven’t seen elsewhere. Besides, against the Booker people, what do I know?