Reviewed

I read (and liked!) the same book as Barack Obama!

And that book would be Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. (At least, I assume he liked it. But he definitely bought it. See?)

Anyway, I liked it.

It’s been awhile since I read it (I am so behind on my reviews and my ARCs, humblest apologies to all authors and publishers and firmest promises to catch up… eventually.) but I did keep a log-journal type thing while I was reading it so this, belated, review won’t be totally worthless.

So this book, that I am super proud to have in common with Barack Obama, is my first Salman Rushdie book and I was very excited to get an early copy (through NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest and original review).

Having been lately fascinated with fairy tales, folklore, and all things supernatural, this was probably the very best book I could have started with. It begins with the story of Dunia the jinnia and the ‘love’ she shared with Ibn Rushd (who was a real philosopher in 12th century Morocco and Spain, and is more commonly known as Averroes). The story then switches to Mr. Geronimo in present day, post-apocalyptic New York City. Mr. Geronimo the gardener is a descendant of Dunia, though I can’t remember if it’s of her and Ibn Rushd, but I think so.

According to my notes, things got a little bit confusing then. Dunia is seen as the jinn/Mother, therefore the mother of all jinn? There seemed to be a war coming between the ever available adversaries of Good vs. Evil. Mr. Geronimo started to float. In a way, I had the sense that there was some prequel story that I should have known first, some research that I should have done to prepare myself for this book. Needless to say, in terms of jinn lore and Ibn Rushd versus Al-Ghazali in terms of philosophy sent me to Google many times.

And then things started to make sense, and I started to love the book. I’d just read American Gods by Neil Gaiman and I started to think of it as comparable to that. The battle of Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark is defined by humanity’s lore and history, and we are sometimes oblivious to the things that can change us. But those are lessons that we need to learn for ourselves, maybe without hiding in lore and stories and giving up control to things we can’t control, that might not exist. That seemed to be the message Dunia was trying to craft, though I could be very wrong about it.

The story faltered slightly when, nearly three-quarters of the way through, the two main antagonists were introduced. Zummurad and Zabardast are fine as adversaries, but they lost something in showing up so late. They ended up less three-dimensional, less motivated to fight so hard in the war against Dunia and her father. She and her father, with their kingdom at Qaf Mountain, also ended up seemingly a little abrupt because if how late in the story it became important.

The ending, my notes say, is something I found kind of anti-climactic. I didn’t see the point of it, exactly, and I wondered if I should have read One Thousand and One Nights before I read this. To it’s credit, I feel like I understand something of Arabian folklore now and I do want to learn more. I do want to re-read it, and since I had to rely so heavily on my notes and not my memories of the story, I think I might do it soon.

For the richness of the story, for what I learned from it, I do very much like this book.

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