Sorry for the delay in publishing posts lately: I have spent the last month or so either away in India or catching up on my massive backlog of work for having been away in India. However, to make up this I shall aim to publish more frequently than once a week when possible and shall, appropriately, turn my attention towards an Indian novel, the most successful book when it comes to the Booker.
Not only has Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize, it has also won two other supplementary prizes: ‘Booker of Bookers’ (in 1993) and ‘The Best of the Booker’ (in 2008) to commemorate 25 and 40 years of the Booker Prize respectively. I must admit, I started reading this book with some degree of hesitation: any book so highly lauded has a good chance of being underwhelming relative to the praise it has received. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Midnight’s Children is a superb piece of writing and one of the finest books I have read on this journey so far.
It tells the story of Saleem Sinai, born at midnight on 15th August, 1947, the moment India gained independence. The story is an allegory for modern Indian history, and events in Sinai’s life are influenced by what was happening at a political level. This is not an historical novel though. It blends history with magical realism and, narrated by Sinai, feels much like a memoir. The voice is particularly impressive as it feels conversational and personal, and litters the book with metaphors and allusions that render the magical aspects of the story more plausible.
I found this novel captivating. It is clever, original, and frequently funny. So much of what makes Midnight’s Children engaging is derived from its storytelling rather than its story: Sinai’s awareness of the narrative as allegorical; the frequent jumps in time and tangential asides; the commentary on historical events and people; the near-constant use of similes. Although I am usually hesitant to use the term ‘literary novel’ (on the grounds that novels by their nature are literary), I can see how it could be applied here. The book is challenging and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read it on a five-hour long coach journey and could therefore immerse myself for a sustained period of time. I strongly suspect my usual practice of reading books over multiple evenings in 30 minute sessions would have yielded a far less favourable impression. I strongly recommend reading Midnight’s Children but think it should come with a warning: do so when you have the time.