“Why, alone of all the more-than-five-hundred-million, should I have to bear the burden of history?”
Trying to describe Midnight’s Children is like trying to describe a country: I can outline the flavour of the place, and say what I liked best, but it’s difficult to explain what actually makes it special or worth a visit. This book is bold, exciting, playful, thoughtful, funny, and sad, but if I had to use just one word to describe it, one that takes into account just how weird it gets at times, it would be ‘fantastic’.
Saleem Sinai is born at the exact moment India becomes independent, and as such has a monumental sense of importance and some rather strange abilities. Over the course of Midnight’s Children, the title of which refers to the other children born on the same day as Saleem, we trace his family to understand why he — and thus India — are the way they are.
Saleem’s entire family are woven throughout important historical events in India, giving readers peaks through a small hole into different parts of history’s inner-workings. This means the book feels fragmented sometimes, but when the story’s finished you can put all the pieces together in your mind to form something of ridiculous scope and beauty. The gorgeous prose is what ties things together and keeps the novel from buckling under its own weight; combined with Rushdie’s sly observations which never stop feeling interesting and insightful, the language here is just outstanding.
A weird mixture of history, fantasy, truth and lies, Midnight’s Children attempts to condense India into a novel. It shouldn’t work, it’s just too big, but it absolutely blew me away. The best way I can think of to summarise why is to bastardise a Walt Whitman quote: this book contains multitudes.