Whisper it, but I had never bought or read a Salman Rushdie novel until very recently. Fortunately, having filled up my loyalty card at my favourite bookshop, I was entitled to £7 off a book and had a quick scout around the shelves for something exciting. I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, so that (coupled with the fact that I’ve always meant to get around to reading Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses) made the book my gratis book of choice. I’m so glad that I picked it up.
The Grand Mughal, Emperor Akbar, is a man of the world who understands that life is often more complex than it seems. His favourite wife is a woman he has imagined into being; his three young sons, each addicted to opium, are plotting against him for his throne; and he is emotionally conflicted by his inability to talk about himself in the first person. And life for the Elephant King becomes increasingly complicated when a young Florentine arrives at his court claiming to be the son of the lost Mughal princess, Quara Kὅz, a noted beauty and enchantress, which would make him the great Mughal’s uncle…
A clever pastiche of the oral tradition of storytelling and packed with historical characters, this book is a beautiful bedtime story for adults. Richly exotic and evocative, Rushdie adopts many storytelling conventions which have sadly fallen out of favour in adult fiction and uses these folkloric devices to create something exciting and wonderfully grown up- with plenty of clever nods to the need for storytellers to flatter their audience. This book is a jewel.
I’ll leave you with this, one of my favourite lines:
When the emperor learned the truth he understood all over again how daring a sorcerer he had encountered on that long-ago morning after the dream of the crow. 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 on a silvered tongue affords enchantment enough.
The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie
See? Genius. What are you waiting for? Get out, buy it, read it to friends, memorize lines and share them with strangers on the bus.