It’s almost 2016 and I am feeling a little guilty. See, I got a copy of Salman Rushdie’s latest offering (Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights) back in the late summer. I read it over a week, wrote my review and… sat on it.
I didn’t review it in the Fall or Winter. And here it is, almost 2016 and I can’t look at my copy The Satanic Verses without feeling a little ill.
So why the hold up? Well, I only do two reviews a month on WKAR’s Current State and I like for my reviews to stick (You can find links to all my reviews here). In other words, I want them to feel important. I want to take on the bestsellers, celebrate new authors or works I found, say something maybe about the Michigan literary scene or literature in general (I love taking on a classic). And this book didn’t inspire me. There was just something I always wanted to say or review more.
I had some great reads over 2015! I loved Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, adored In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume and recommended The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman to everyone I know. I also was dismayed by the mess that is Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last and couldn’t get rid of my copy of Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone fast enough. And don’t get me started on the heartbreak that was Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I’m still recovering from that publishing error.
So to take care of my Rushdie guilt, I have decided to just post my draft of my book review here. This is me, cleaning my reviewer palate and preparing for the new year ahead. You can read my book review below. (And Happy New Year!)
Book Review: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie
It might sound odd to say this but I am a loss for words. Salman Rushdie’s new novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights has almost left me speechless. There is so much than can be said, both positive and negative, but it’s hard to even know where to begin. The funny thing is after reading this book I can’t help but feel Rushdie might agree with me.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is an incredible work of creative writing. It is a high fantasy, with epic repercussions on every page. The novel is a new 1001 Arabian nights but in our world, when the genies, or Jinn, leave the Fairyland and come to live in ours. They wreak havoc, shaking the foundations of what our culture believes and stands by. It can be comic, terrifying and sad.
The tale begins many years before all that though. Dunia, the lightning princess of the Jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of our world. Their offspring are still around in our time period, marked by their lack of earlobes and an uncanny ability to survive lightning strikes. Yet, these are not the only time periods the story encompasses, since the books is a historical record and written a 1000 years in the future. This almost gives the book a vibe like from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
When the new 1001 nights begin, there are many signs that our world is about to experience a great change. There is first an Indian gardner named Geronimo who discovers he can no longer touch the ground. Then there is a magic baby who can tell if someone is truthful or not with a glance. When four great Jinns emerge into our world, splitting it into four halves, chaos takes over. It’s all so grand and epic in potential and yet… there is so little here.
While I did enjoy the book and was in awe of Rushdie’s creativity, I was also frustrated. His writing is so dry throughout that the characters feel as if they are out of a study as compared to creatures of flesh and blood (or magic and smoke). There is no real moments of insight or character growth. There is just the dry factoid and then he moves on. It can feel by the end that the real person not enjoying the story is Rushdie, as he rushes to an end with epic magical battles that are nothing more than few sentences in length. Honestly, a book with a plot like this should encompass volumes, not less than 290 pages.
Which brings me to my conundrum, what do I say about Rushdie’s latest offering? Do I recommend it to fans of fantasy with the caveat that it is as dry as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion? I can’t recommend it to fans of magical realism, because it doesn’t have the subtle charm of most books in that genre. Do I pass it to fans of literary fiction, but warn them there is going to be some eye rolling as they read again and again about the love life of the jinn? It is not for the young adult reader and not for the casual reader. So who is it for?
I… I really can’t say.
Hey, it’s the holiday season! How about checking out one of my books as a stocking stuffer or as an escape from long traveling and in-laws? You can find my books via this page on Amazon (paperbacks, eBooks, and audiobooks), including my new surprising novel Permanent Spring Showers and the popular A Jane Austen Daydream.