Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel

The Enchantress of Florence is set in a beautiful city in the east (India, I think?).  The emperor, who has begun to doubt religion and his role as ruler, befriends a mysterious stranger from the west who calls himself only "Mogor dell Amore".  The blond traveler has a story to tell.  Soon the emperor and his kingdom are entranced by the story of the beautiful and powerful enchantress of Florence.

So, I actually hadn't planned on reading this book.  I actually went to the library to get Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, but it was checked out.  This story caught my attention and I'm glad I got The Enchantress of Florence, although I was a little bit disappointed by the story. 

The story itself is interesting, though a bit hard to follow in the beginning.  It at times jumped around locations and time periods without my realizing it.  Once I realized what was going on it was easier to understand.  I loved the parts of the book that take place in the emperor's kingdom in India, and I also liked reading about the enchantress and her story, yet there were long sections that I labored through because I just wasn't drawn in to the certain parts.  Perhaps it's because right before reading this book I read The Pope's Daughter, which takes place in Renaissance Italy, just like certain parts of this book. 

I loved a lot of the characters.  Rushdie has a way of painting characters that brings out hilarious things about them.  For example, everytime I read about the emperor's mother and aunt, I had to laugh.  They are both such real characters.  I could see parts of my own family members in them.  Then there's the emperor himself.  He is a ruthless king who wins battles and isn't afraid of killing people, yet through the book, we see him beginning to doubt.  He wonders if he's really doing the right thing.  He realizes that he doesn't want to be known as ruthless and blood-thirsty like many of his ancestors before him.  He begins to doubt his religion.  Most important, I think, he starts to want to be a normal person.  The emperor plays with using "I" instead of "we" when talking about himself, and there's nothing he wants more than a friend to talk about his thoughts and philosophies with.  I felt bad for the emperor because he desperately wants to change himself and his kingdom, yet risks losing a lot if he does.

Despite some issues with the story for me, I really loved reading The Enchantress of Florence.  The reason?  Rushdie's gorgeous writing.  It is beautiful.  I love how much humor is in this book, yet the way it's written makes it seem like pretty prose.  If you read this book for anything, read it for the writing. 

Some favorite quotes:
Page 5: In the day's last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold.

Page 38: Bhakti Ram Jain proudly held the rank of Imperial Flatterer First Class, and was a master of the ornate, old school style known as cumulative fawning.  Only a man with an excellent memory for the baroque formulations of excessive encomia could fawn cumulatively, on account of the repetitions required and the necessary precision of the sequencing.  Bhakti Ram Jain's memory was unerring.  He could fawn for hours.

Page 73: By then, however, the knowledge was of no use to him, except to remind him of what he should never have forgotten, that witchcraft requires no potions, familiar spirits, or magic wands.  Language upon a silvered tongue affords enchantment enough.

Page 308: The sun had not yet risen, but the emperor was up and about.  Sikri in shadow seemed to embody the great mysteries of life.  It felt to him like an elusive world of questions to which he must find responses.

Title: The Enchantress of Florence
Author: Salman Rushdie
Date of Publication: May 27th, 2008 (my birthday!!)
Number of Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library

1 comment:

  1. Great review -- I love the quotes you've highlighted. I've heard from other bloggers that they, too, weren't totally wild about this one, although they liked it in parts. It sounds like something I'll keep on my TBR for forever, but may not every bump to the top...