Benjamin's Reviews > The Enchantress of Florence

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
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's review
Aug 29, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2008

The second of my "hospital books", which I saved all summer to read during what ended up being my 9 day marathon at Weiss.

I love Rushdie. What especially captures me while I'm reading his work is his passion for the English language. He plays with it, crafts it. He's like a chocolatier for prose. This novel is no exception. The language and ideas here are frequently on display, so much so that the book made me smile at its cleverness countless times. (And its cleverness never seemed obnoxious, just delightful.)

The book features a story within a story format, where a young European man arrives at the court of the Indian emperor Akbar and proceeds to weave a yarn involving three Florentine friends. One of them grows up to be Machiavelli, another a solitary homebody, another a Turkish mercenary. Along the way they encounter beautiful women, the last one on that list being the woman of the book's title.

Clearly this book was heavily researched, for almost every character (save a few big ones) has an historical counterpart. Even imaginary queens dreamed up by Akbar have some kind of cultural precedence.

My only qualm with the book is that it has no plot device that follows through the whole book. It is, instead, a series of adventures and experiences (much like life, admittedly) made by the three friends. The beginning mystery of the book (the European visitor claims he is Akbar's uncle, a chronological and geographical conundrum) gets lost in the stories and I found myself reading not for the tale, but the writing.

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