I feel like Salman Rushdie is one of those high-brow authors that is on almost every must-read list. So it’s been in my head for a while now that I need to read his books. And I did read one last year, or maybe the year before, and I didn’t love it. But I’m always willing to give authors a second chance, and when I saw his newest novel, I couldn’t resist.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden immigrates to the States under mysterious circumstances, he and his three adult children assume new identities, taking ‘Roman’ names, and move into a grand mansion in downtown Manhattan. Arriving shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama, he and his sons, each extraordinary in his own right, quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society.
The story of the powerful Golden family is told from the point of view of their Manhattanite neighbour and confidant, René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal and murder, and far away, in their abandoned homeland, some decent intelligence work.
Invoking literature, pop culture, and the cinema, Rushdie spins the story of the American zeitgeist over the last eight years, hitting every beat: the rise of the birther movement, the Tea Party, Gamergate and identity politics; the backlash against political correctness; the ascendency of the superhero movie, and, of course, the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain wearing make-up and with coloured hair.
In a new world order of alternative truths, Salman Rushdie has written the ultimate novel about identity, truth, terror and lies. A brilliant, heartbreaking realist novel that is not only uncannily prescient but shows one of the world’s greatest storytellers working at the height of his powers.
Yes, this is basically a satire about a certain orange politician we all know and hate. Unfortunately, I just don’t think Rushdie’s writing is my cup of tea. This is the second of his books that I’ve read, and I have had the exact same reaction to both: I can tell his writing is brilliant and expertly crafted, and I want to like it, I just don’t. And that’s okay. I do think I needed to give it a second shot, and I’m glad it was with this book.
Like I mentioned, I thought the writing was really good – Salman Rushdie’s writing is typically considered great – and, while I could tell that it was good and I could appreciate it as a piece of art, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It’s a strange feeling to try and explain. It’s like looking at a famous painting, one you know is technically and artistically brilliant, but still feeling largely ambivalent towards it. I think it’s just my personal reaction to Rushdie’s writing, but I had a hard time getting into this book.
I did like reading about this crazy, ridiculous, and obscenely wealthy family. It was kind of like watching an extremely high-brow reality show, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. I think it is relevant and eye-opening in many ways, but still very much fictional. I think this is an interesting book in that, right now, it feels like satire or a political commentary, but in fifty years, it might simply be a novel. I feel like a lot of the books I’ve read that are relevant to today’s current events aren’t going to be as impactful for the next generation. This one might actually manage it, which is a feat in and of itself.
★★★☆☆ – As I said, I just don’t think The Golden House was the right book for me. I can appreciate that it is a good book, a great book even, I just didn’t enjoy it the way I want to enjoy a book. However, if you enjoy Salman Rushdie’s writing, or want to give it a try, I would recommend it.
I’m curious: if you’ve read any of Salman Rushdie’s books, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!
The Golden House will be in bookstores on September 5. You can order your copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Golden House as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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