Enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie

It  happened somewhere around 35% (yes, that's sad KindleSpeak for how far you are in a book) that I started to struggle. I just did not know how to move forward. I was stuck. The story of the three Florentine friends just stuck in my teeth like taffy and I could not spit or swallow.  I promised myself that if I can continue to persevere I will have my reward if of nothing else than at least learning how Rushdie manages to bring the two worlds together. The worlds of Florence of the three friends and Fatehpur Sikri of the emperor Akbar.

I indeed did find out how how the characters fared if not so much how Rushdie did. This tale is certainly fun as you go along with it toward the conclusion. However, it is more the thrill of conclusion than the actual act of knowing. Sort of like running a medium-distance race. The fun at the finish line often trumps the fun of the laps and what you are left with is an exhilarating nostalgia.

Enchantress of Florence is a fairly entertaining tale. Certainly not amongst Rushdie's best but certainly much better than anything he has produced since The Moor's Last Sigh. He ties and then unties the improbable knot of a plot well and leaves you wondering more about the life of the characters that Rushdie makes up. The two worlds suddenly seem more related than they probably ever were and there is a sense of relief at the notion. There is a also wonderment at the very concept of a book that brings Akbar, Machiavelli and Amerigo Vespucci together. I am not sure there are too many people who can pull something like that through with even half the success of Rushdie.

If only this book, much like pretty much all popular art I consume these days, was about 20% shorter (KindleSpeak, pardon me) it would've been far more entertaining, tighter and complete. In popular culture I am beginning to notice this 20% rule almost universally applied. Everything from food to films is about 20% more than it should be.

Rushdie has made it known that this is his most researched book. I see that as his Americanization over the last several years as his popularity has increased in the US. Americans love their research.  However, we don't go to Rushdie for a history lesson. Far from it, we go to him for what is not in the lesson -- of history or otherwise. We go to him for realism that is unreal and for wordplay that is magical and themes that are touchable. We go to him for characters and we go to him for their whim.

There is more explaining in this book than I've ever seen him do. This is his clearest move away from a fundamentally British or colonial style to an American one where the burden of communication is on the giver and not the receiver. And something huge is lost in that transition. The enchantress may be enchanting but she is also demystified.