If I was reviewing this book purely on the quality of the writing, it'd be a solid five stars. It's simply astounding. But it loses one simply because, even though I enjoyed it, reading felt like an absolute chore. I swear, it took me six thousand years to finish this damn book.
Part of this is due to my admittedly pathetic understanding of the period of history this book is about. I knew only the very basics about India & Pakistan and their transitions during the 20th century - enough that I didn't feel completely lost by the plot, but I certainly wasn't intimately familiar with any of the events described in the book.
More than that, however, was Rushdie's tendency to abruptly jump from one part of the story's timeline to another, no explanation, no transition, within a single page or paragraph or even sentence. It was the way he stacked metaphors on top of metaphors and laced them together with seemingly unconnected plot points. I spent the first 50 pages of the book learning how to read the book
. It was almost like learning a new language - a language which, once I became conversational, was beautiful and emotional and wrought with meaning, but the growing pains were difficult, and even now that I've finished it I feel far from fluent.
I suppose I should acknowledge that sometimes the best things are those which don't come easily, and in the end I'm glad I stuck through and finished this book. It was worth the (sometimes literal) headache. I can't, however, give it the 5 stars it deserves, because I can't in good conscience ignore the experience of reading the book itself. I have to factor in the frustration I felt over it, sludging my way through it, and not just on how I feel about the book now that I've put it back on the shelf. Otherwise I'd be like a mountain climber (and, rest assured, Midnight's Children is a mountain of a book) who rated a hike only on the view from the top, and said nothing at all about the trail.
I'm recommending it, but only if you are in the mood to make yourself work for a great story.