Padma cries, “Just tell what happened, mister! What is so surprising if a baby does not make conversations?”
These two sentences tell you all you need to know about this book really but I’ll expand slightly in the interest of creating a more lengthy post.
The narrator of Midnight’s Children is Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight on the day that India became an independent country. It takes quite some time (about a quarter of the book) for us to get round to this momentous birth as Saleem starts by going into great detail about his ancestors (which bored Padma to whom he is telling the story as well as me).
What follows is an in-depth analysis of Saleem’s life and times including his overblown interpretation of the most insignificant of events. Because of the historic moment of his birth Saleem feels responsible for the fate and life of India and added to that rather pompous view he also develops supernatural powers which link him to all the other children born between midnight and 1am that morning. There’s also a lot of metaphorical and philosophical type chat which is largely responsible for Padma’s (and my) frustration with the long-winded story-teller. As she says, it’s hardly surprising if a baby isn’t particularly conversant but to Saleem, the (newborn) baby’s silence was a product of the time of it’s birth and indicative of the significant role it would play in the future of India.
I found a lot of this book hard to swallow as it made very little sense and was frankly ridiculous a lot of the time and I found Saleem’s views of his life to be arrogant and laughable although there was no real humour to be had.
Having said that the story was not unenjoyable and it did make for an…interesting read. I also enjoyed relating the latest crazy developments to my work colleagues.
So I remain confused about why Midnight’s Children is so highly lauded and I’m not sorry it’s over. Having said that I don’t want to put anyone off reading it, I gave it 3 stars on GoodReads because I didn’t dislike it as thoroughly as this review makes out but if you are going to read it then I want you to know what you’re letting yourself in for!