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The Ground Beneath Her Feet
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1001 book reviews > The Ground Beneath Her Feet, by Salman Rushdie

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Apr 25, 2018 09:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 486 comments This was an exhausting read. Not terrible, but hard to really get into. This story is about a trio, 2 musicians and their loyal photographer sidekick, who emerge from Bombay into a world entertainment scene similar to our own. Their world is an alternative reality or parallel universe where President Kennedy is shot at but not assassinated, and where it is Robert, not JFK who is President Kennedy. A man a lot like Elvis Presley but with a completely different name is one of the early non-Indian musical influences on Vina and Ormus as they slowly make their way towards their destiny. Throughout the book the text is thick with almost but not quite our-world name dropping, attributing songs whose titles we would know to people who in our world most definitely never recorded them. There are a few people who stand out for being who and what we would recognize- Graham Greene still wrote The Quiet American, George Orwell still wrote 1984, and by 1989 Freddie Mercury was still very ill and only had a few years left to live. While none of these islands of similarity matter much to the plot, they stick out as if marking vague turning points. I think if I didn't recognize so many song titles and lyrics in this text it might have been less exhausting to read.
Vina Apsara is a self-made woman, remaking herself after almost everything she relied on failed her. Ormus is the man who has always loved her since he first saw her, and who is destined to be her partner for life, but not quite in the fairy-tale romance they both seem at some level to expect. And the narrator of the story, Rai, has also loved Vina ever since he first saw her, and is destined to be forever her back-up plan, and Ormus's sidekick, an accessory with no story of his own, who spends his life photographing, but not quite participating in the lives of others. With all the pop-culture references it is not surprising that all the characters in this story are more mythical caricatures than realistic, well-rounded characters. And with so much pop-culture filling the text without quite meaning anything, there is still a lot that happens in this book. It felt both too long and too short, really. I've read more difficult books, and this one is readable, but this is not my favorite novel by Rushdie by any means. I gave it 4 stars, and it was good enough to maybe justify its place on the List, but I would probably replace it with The Enchantress of Florence if I was updating the next version of the List.

Diane  | 2044 comments Rating: 4 stars

After trudging through Grimus, this was like a breath of fresh air. Rushdie has been a bit hit or miss with me, and this one falls into the "hit" category.

It is the story of a man in search of his lost love, a famous musical artist who disappeared during an earthquake. There was so much in this book - historical fiction, contemporary fiction, speculative fiction, alternate reality, magical realism, unrequited love, love triangles, and a lot of references to popular culture, especially in regard to music.

Although far from perfect, I think Rushdie successfully combined a lot of elements and formed a great story.

Amanda Dawn | 1344 comments I also gave this one 4 stars. It took a little while for me to get into it, but I enjoyed it when I did.

One thing I really appreciated was how this story sets two of the 60s/70s biggest rockstars as being Indian, when that wasn't true historically speaking, but many non-Asian artists lifted from the aesthetic and appropriated a commodified version of the faiths and philosophies of India. I thought this narrative was a neat way to kind of turn that trend into a more autonomous story.

Some of the switches from our timeline that I caught were fun as well (John Lennon singing Satisfaction for example), and contribute to this idea of "what if things had been slightly different".

The different ways "the ground beneath her feet" play out in the novel was really interesting as well. Ormus writes the titular song about Vina as a way to convey his obsessive worshipful love of her. But, Vina's dramatic death by earthquake that is revealed early in the book serves as a literal pun on this. Together, these contrasting examples help convey one of themes of the book. Something Ormus sees as this beautiful pedestalizing fairy-tale is actually a great tragedy: just as his obsession with Vina becomes with old age, just as it always was because Vina was a roamer who was never really a part of this ideal to either Ormus or Rai.

This is encapsulated extremely well in the ending with Ormus and his quest to Vina doubles. Rai meeting the "Vina" double at the end and then getting to know and like her as an actual person she is ties up the book nicely in that we see "Vina" herself always had a human being behind her that Rai and Ormus never truly appreciate.

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