Rachel's Reviews > The Enchantress Of Florence

The Enchantress Of Florence by Salman Rushdie
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's review
Oct 14, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: good-stuff, crap

Rushdie KILLED me with this one. I think he did it on purpose, at least. He strings you along for the entire novel with the promise of a big payoff, and it becomes increasingly obvious that the payoff isn't coming. But what really slew me was the commentary of female agency that paints a red line through the center of this book.

Women in this book are erased from history by men, and then put back into history by other, later men. They are created from whole cloth from the imaginations of men. These imaginary women have no less value than real ones; in fact, they are superior. One woman even has her entire personality and history stripped from her brain to be replaced by the history of a man. She is literally transformed into a vessel: the memory palace. The only source of a woman's power is her desirability, and a man's desire has an irresistable transforming effect on even the most powerful woman. The complete denial of agency to any female character in the book has to be intentional, but why?

Ps. A note explaining my shelving. In my opinion, my review is true, but so is the eternally eloquent Ann Hopper's. So, as storytelling this is Good Stuff, but as a literary act of violence against women, it's Crap.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann GodDAMMIT, Bradshaw. I noticed the whole paucity-of-female-agency thing myself, but wasn't bothered because a) i'm such a bad feminist that I honesty didn't care, and b) I thought whosey-whatsits d'Amour was secretly a woman. Oops! I KNEW someone was gonna come along and make some great point about this, I just didn't think it would be someone as crazy-eloquent as you. Why you gots to be so smart and all, Rach?

Rachel I know what you mean, Ann. Rushdie does such a job of making you like the Italian and the Emperor that it's easy to view the subjugation of women in this book as whimsical, even sexy. It's all part of his self-aware oriental fantasy. But the diplacement of women's identities is so consistent, and towards the end, so in-your-face, that it's like Rushdie wants his readers to get comfortable with it, only to finally become uncomfortable with how comfortable they've become. To me, it was like a horror movie directer taking potshots at his audience for being desensitized to violence.

Marci I agree with you'all; it's like feminism never happened. Shocking really from someone as perceptive and intelligent as Rushdie can be.

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