Rebecca's Reviews > The Enchantress Of Florence

The Enchantress Of Florence by Salman Rushdie
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Apr 16, 2009

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Read in April, 2009

** spoiler alert ** I never knew I would give a Rushdie book 3 stars.

This book is wonderful fantasy, reminded me of Michael Chabon's recent book Gentlemen of the Road, only Enchantress is far more authentic and more adult.

Places and empires have ancient, beautiful names; some discernible into modern names and territories, some not. Rushdie's bibliography shows that 90% of his references are in regard to Florence, not to Akbar or Persia or the Ottoman Empire. Since the book is hardly 90% Florence, I wonder how much of the extra-Italy action is memory/knowledge that Rushdie carries around and delivers so fluently. This is why I (we) love to read him - he brings us a vivid perspective, truth, and body of historical/cultural knowledge to which we are not otherwise exposed.

Three reasons for three stars:
- Trying to do too much. I think I groaned/hollered out loud each time the book tried to fit another historical figure into the narrative. The point, I think, is to show the commonality of these great people - at one late point Niccolo "Mogor" says as much and I immediately highlighted it as the theme of the book. Worthwhile, but really - Elizabeth I, Machiavelli, Amerigo Vespucci, Akbar the Great, Mehmed II, Vlad the Impaler... some are obviously connected, but otherwise this feels like a reach.

- The theme. We are all the same, all nationalities and faiths. Only we are not asked to examine whether emperors and commoners (rich/poor) are the same. The only "commoners" are brilliant men (Dashwanth, Birbal, Tansen) with incredible talents, or slaves to emperors. Ago is the closest sub for a common person. He has no birthright or talent other than being in the right place at the right time, and his total submission to carrying royalty on his back.

- The answer/twist in the last 20 pages. We are all the same, and this is proven because the brilliant foreigner and the emperor are both the victims/perpetrators of incest. Whoa. What?

I am not sure how to think about Beauty in this book.

Overall a fast read.



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