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Let your imagination run wild

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Sometimes, I like to let my imagination off the leash to run wild. Over Christmas, I allowed it to run with the vampires, reading all four of the Twilight books for teenage girls in rapid succession. Fun, yes, but by the end, I felt like a kid who had binged on too much Hallowe'en candy.

Last week, I decided it would be better if my imagination really ran wild, but with some adult content. So, I read Salman Rushdie's latest novel, "The Enchantress of Florence." Despite the mixed reviews it has received since its release last June, I thought it was wonderful.

Now, it's certainly not for everyone. The reader must be prepared to suspend all disbelief. Rushdie's tales are based on a kind of magic realism, where time is blurred and imaginary characters co-exist with their real masters. Certain scents truly can bewitch and the presence of a certain enchantress can calm an entire city-state -- even Renaissance Florence, where the line between enchantress and witch is as thin as the match it would take to burn her at the stake.

Very roughly, the story begins in the 16th century when a yellow-haired adventurer, Niccolo Vespucci, finds his way to the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar in his glorious palace complex at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar is 'a Muslim vegetarian, a warrior who wanted only peace, a philosopher-king: a contradiction in terms'.

Vespucci, a Florentine, is filled with tall tales from his travels, yet maintains he is also an ambassador from the Queen of England -- and, incredibly, the Mughal's long-lost uncle.

Like the stories of Scheherazade, the telling of these tales takes a long time and travels through many digressions, all aimed at supporting Vespucci's claim to be the son of the legendary Qara Köz, the 'Lady Black Eyes', a descendant of Genghis Khan and the Mughal's great-aunt. How she winds up in Renaissance Florence, friends with the Medici and with Niccolo Machiavelli, is all part of his tale.

It's a fun journey to take. The language is sumptuous, glorious to read. Hard to follow, at times, but still fun. In the end, I know that I lost the thread of a few tales amongst the many in this novel, but I can still see the beautiful tapestry spread out before me.

Comments (10)

Enchanting, Sandra, description of this read! You have kindled my fire for yet another book to stuff into my suitcase. Have you read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog". I enjoyed it immensely as I am enjoying now as well, so far, "The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle". Please give me tips if you read something you think I would like.

I saw the restored Scrovegni Chapel frescoes two years ago: one way-too-short-fifteen minute day session and another session at night. They offer distinct experiences due to the very different lighting.

ALWAYS look forward to your blog entries.

Mary

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, thanks for writing this book review. It sounds like it would be complicated for me to read but your wonderful review does make it sound interesting.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Have a great week!

sandrac:

Hello Mary!
I am about to order "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" -- I hadn't heard about it before, and it sounds delightful. Just the sort of book I enjoy and the reviews are great! Thanks so much for the suggestion.

I now have to look into Edgar Sawtell. I'm always looking for (good) book recommendations! I recently finished a novel by Jodi Picoult that I had to read because it was chosen by someone in my book club. Not so good -- love that survives death, blah blah blah. I don't think I'll be finding this one reviewed in the New York Times!

Kathy, Enchantress is pretty complicated -- I lost track of several characters and I know I missed some elements. (A reviewer in the New York Times books section remarked on that as well!)

But it's still a wonderful read, the language is so lush and the sub-plots so fantastic! Despite many twists and turns -- there are pirates and poets and all kinds of strange occurences -- the basic plot is pretty straightforward. And fun to follow.

Interesting review. I've never read anything by him. Sometimes I get in the mood for a book that requires a little bit of work so I'll keep this one in mind. And I've been thinking about checking out the Twilight series too, just because of all the hoopla!

Sounds like a wonderful book. It might be great for summertime when I am on break and can clear my mind of work. I loved your review!

Thanks for this nice review, Sandra! I hadn't even heard about it before. Will check it out.

sandrac:

Hi Annie -- the Twilight books were fun, very lightweight but imaginative. However, the message of abstinence seemed rather heavyhanded(the hunky teen vampire is terrified of "losing control" with his human girlfriend for fear of biting her and thus, infecting her.) Still, it is nice to know what all the buzz is about!

Thanks Girasoli -- Rushdie does demand a fair amount of concentration but I think it's worth it.

Chiocciola, Enchantress is worth checking out (especially now that it's out in paperback! I love buying books, but a balk a bit at paying full price!)

Brad'll Do It:

Whenever I let my imagination run wild, I worry about being arrested.

sandrac:

Brad, then you could set up a blog from prison!

I've wanted to read something by him to see how he writes, but so far nothing has captured my interest. This does however, and so onto the list it goes. Thanks for the recommendation...

Dana

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