Jason Golomb's Reviews > The Enchantress of Florence

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
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Nov 03, 14

bookshelves: fiction, florence, historical-fiction, literature, italy, renaissance
Read from August 20 to 23, 2012

This is a magnificent novel; a model of the perfect reading for a book group, or literature class. Rushdie creates and amazingly solid and well-crafted central plot, surrounded by parables and dreams, imbued with a deep multiplicity of meanings, that all flows like poetry.

"Enchantress" is a more focused version of Umberto Eco's "The Island of the Day Before". It has that same dream-like quality of stories flowing into and within other stories, but in Rushdie's case, anchored by a more stable threaded plot.

The novel revolves around a mysterious European traveler, ostensibly from Florence, who finds himself at the court of an Indian ruler. The Florentine (who goes by numerous names) has a secret to tell...a secret that will kill all but one who are exposed by it. This secret is the fulcrum upon which this vibrant tale is balanced.

Rushdie delves into themes of love, poetry, one-ness, leadership, gender, beauty, war, and the list goes on. I'm quite sure that I was only able to grasp but a small fraction of the delightfully nuanced story's multiple tiers of meanings. English majors will have an easier time dissecting the stories within the stories, but all readers will enjoy Rushdie's easy-flowing style.

The first third of the novel takes place in India where the stage is set for the Florentine's secret. The second two thirds focus on Florence where Niccolo Machiavelli plays a significant role in unravelling the deadly secret.

Each character represents a different quality of being or literate theme. Each clue to the mystery leads to a new tale, a new parable. These lead Rushdie, particularly in the early India-centered scenes, to create a bright atmosphere of story-clouds, drifting in and out from each other, composing a complete and satisfactory conclusion.

I found myself looking forward to each reading session with 'Enchantress'. Rushdie's approach to building the story and themes developed a very comforting and pleasing read. While I wouldn't consider this 'light' reading, it's deeply layered story and almost poetic approach make this a wonderful book.
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