Classics Quickies

Book cover for Midnight's Children by Salman RushdieMidnight’s Children
Salman Rushdie

This book. Ugh, this book. Briefly, the main character and a bunch of other “midnight’s children” are born at the same time that the modern country of India comes into existence. Those both in that magical hour are endowed with special gifts,  designated for, if not greatness, at least notice.

I really don’t know why it took me literally forever* to finish this novel. It’s the kind of magical, sprawling, historic narrative that I want to love, and sometimes do. One Hundred Years of Solitude comes to mind as a somewhat similar book that I did in fact love. Now that I think about it, though, I really struggled with Solitude for quite awhile before it hooked me in and refused to let me go. Maybe I was just never able to immerse myself for the requisite stretch necessary to appreciate Midnight’s Children.

Is there another of Rushdie’s books that you might think I’d get along with any better?

Book cover for The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison

This book is brutal. Not that Toni Morrison typically writes happy, feel good books or anything. But seriously, rape, child abuse, rape as child abuse, self hatred, racism, unattainable beauty standards – all that and more are in this slim little novel.

Still, Morrison manages to resist simple narratives even about the most despicable of her characters. That is something I really appreciate as much as it frustrates me. It’s not accurate to say that she makes a character sympathetic, but she can imagine how a young boy might grow up to commit heinous acts and can show that it is still a person, not a monster, that commits them.

It’s Morrison’s first novel, and it’s not as impressive as some of her later work, but still, it’s Toni Morrison. She can write circles around pretty much anyone else, as far as I’m concerned.

Book cover of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca
Daphne du Maurier

It’s a mystery in the sense that we know that the title character is dead, but not what happened to her. There’s Maxim de Winter, lord of picture-perfect Manderley

The ending was..troublesome, to say the least. I’d love to sit around and have a good feminist-influenced chat about this book. There are some very obvious WTF red flags about the treatment of women, the unreliable narrator, the fact that this unreliable narrator is unknown to us except as “Mrs. de Winter.” I still can’t figure out exactly how I feel about it, but I’m glad the Classics Club pushed me to read it.

*Yes, I’m using literally figuratively. Deal with it.

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9 thoughts on “Classics Quickies

  1. I have tried to read ‘Midnight’s Children’ on two separate occasions but not got far either time. You encourage me that it is possible to get through it. Perhaps I should have another go.

  2. I have the same trouble with Rushdie. I’ve tried several and I think I only managed to finish The Moor’s Last Sigh. He is similar to many authors I love, but next to them he seems to lack something. I may try Midnight’s Children again someday but meanwhile I find I’m much happier sticking with Marquez, Eco, Saramago, Calvino, and Gunther Grass.

  3. I loved Midnight’s Children, but was lucky to get a stretch early on where I just sat and read and got into it, then had trouble putting it down.
    I’ve yet to try any other Rushdie so can’t compare I’m sorry…except to say that I never got into or even just plain ‘got’ Solitude at all!
    Rebecca was a fun read. I don’t remember being upset by feminist issues at the end. I guess I tend to think if the book was written in its time it will naturally reflect the social mores of that time…and thankfully we’ve moved on from those times and ways of treating people 🙂

  4. I just finished Rebecca and kind of loved it! I can see what you mean about being upset about the general treatment of women in the book, but… I think that might have been du Maurier’s intention? I feel like it would have bothered me more if the author was a man. I do wish the narrator hadn’t been quite such a pushover, she was kind of frustrating sometimes.

    • I’m not sure what her intention was. It’s difficult for me to get a sense about. I just know that the end had a very victim-blaming overlay, and it seems like we are not to question the final version of events. Mrs. Danvers, by her actions, would seem to still question them, but Mrs. Danvers was not exactly the most rational or sympathetic character throughout the book. Maybe she was meant to be, though. Maybe in retrospect I should have seen her as the key to understanding du Maurier’s point of view.

  5. Pingback: The Classics Club | Wandering in the Stacks

  6. I found the ending in Rebecca very frustrating too. I don’t quite get how Maxim got a free pass for his actions.

    And also too bad you didn’t like Midnight’s Children, I found it hard reading but got easier as I went on, plus the fact that I know the settings very well meant I didn’t have to work at making connections. If you still want to try Rushdie, you can try a shorter book such as Shame, or even Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which is a very light fantastical novel.

    • I think I will try Rushdie again – thank you for the suggestions. I really wanted to like Midnight’s Children. I can’t figure out what stopped me. Maybe it will be one of those books I go back and read again in 15 years and love. It could happen!

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