Book Review :: The Enchantress of Florence

Those of you who have been reading BBB for awhile know that I have recently acquired the ability to put down a book that I don’t feel is worth my time finishing. Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence may have been one such book had it not been for the fact that it was written by, well, Salman Rushdie.

You see, while there is this side of my brain that has rationalized not wasting time with some books, there is the other side of my brain that says if I’m going to consider myself ‘well read’ there are some authors that I need to have finished at least one of their books. Rushdie fits that criteria.
Rushdie hails Enchantress as his most researched book, and maybe that is part of what is wrong with it. A mixture of historical fiction and fairy tale, Enchantress spans countries and continents with no less than a couple dozen characters. (Wikipedia lists 37 historical figures included.) Their names (some characters have many) and stories are intertwined with such complexity that it is just thick and hard to follow.
In general terms, Enchantress is about a traveling stranger who ends up in the court of Abkir the Great of India (16th century) claiming that they are relatives and to prove it, begins telling the story of his (the traveler’s) mother, namesake of the novel.
There are two not so subtly stated themes near the end – ‘forging a union between the great cultures of Europe and the East, knowing she has much to learn from us and believing, too, that she has much to teach‘ and ‘the curse of the human race is not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike‘ – which I’m sure could be gleaned somewhere in the monotony of the narrative.
An interesting thought about the reading of this book, similar to my experience with Tropic of Cancer, the story actually becomes engaging and begins moving at a decent pace in the last 50 pages. It is as if the author realizes it is time to go and so he must finish his tale without superfluous detail, which then offers the reader decent narrative.
However, for me, this wasn’t enough to redeem the book. These are ten days I’ll never get back.


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6 Replies to “Book Review :: The Enchantress of Florence

  1. Yes, thanks for warning me off of this book, though I must be honest & write that I too would probably not have picked up this book. In fact, there is no "probably" about it. I would not have read this book. While I agree that there are some authors we readers should read in order to consider ourselves well-read, for me – for whatever reason – Rushdie is not one of those authors. I'm sure that says far more about me than it does about Rushdie. To be honest, I've just never been too interested in what he's doing. Updike's another one (certainly no disrespect for the deceased Updike intended).

    Your latest review has got me thinking now about how interesting it would be to have people list what authors they think people should have read in order to be considered well-read. I'd imagine that except for some of the biggies (one example being Shakespeare), those lists would be interestingly divergent. Interesting to think about….

  2. I just recently found out that he is the writer in residence at Emory, so he spends 1 month a year living in Atlanta. I think that sort of intrigued me as well.

  3. I like Stacie's idea about listing those authors you think you must read to be well read. Maybe just the top 5 or 10.

  4. I agree…. I've been thinking of how to do this in a new post. I'm thinking about separating classic from contemporary…

  5. classic from contemporary would be good–or you could do time periods of, say, 50 year increments: 1800-1850, 1850-1900, 1900-1950, 1950-2009.

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