Enchantress of Florence: Less than enchanting

On several strong recommendations, I purchased the Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie back in July. By all accounts, this book would provide an engrossing escape with a thoroughly enchanting world and many engaging characters. I admit the world was beautifully described by Rushdie, not to the point that you felt you were in it, but his words left you with a sense that you were at a glorious art museum and had just fell into a bright, impressionist painting. Unfortunately, it took me four months to get past the first chapter, which I read several times simply because I would put it down and not want to pick it back up until I accidentally found it hiding under the bed in a layer of dust.

As a side note, this generally does not happen to me. With most books that I read, I find myself thinking about the book even when I’m not reading it, the realistic settings, the enchanting characters, and generally I can’t wait to get home and fall back into that story again. Not so with “Enchantress.”

Overview

In his latest novel, Salman Rushdie creates a world that connects disparate times, locales and infamous figures in a web that has the potential to be a great read. Admittedly, there are moments when you can lose yourself in the book, namely when you are finally privileged to hear the main character’s tale that he has crossed oceans and continents to tell (the tale is the source of the title of the book, the so-called Enchantress of Florence).

Gut reactions

Unfortunately for Rushdie, he spends far too much time on trying to develop his frame story about a man who travels from America to Hindustan (India) to tell the king an important tale. Indeed, he spends far too much time on these secondary (in my mind) characters (the king and the traveler), while still failing to develop them as much as the characters we are allowed to glimpse in the book’s inner tale (the enchantress, her companion and mirror and the men who love them).

I managed to begin reading “Enchantress” in earnest in mid-December. Now that it is mid-January, I am disappointed to say I finally finished it, and only because I needed something to do between loads of laundry. I would have much rather spent the whole time exploring the world of the Enchantress than to be rushed through it between descriptions of the traveler and the king.

 

Bottom Line

In the end, it will take a very positive review from a trusted individual to get me to pick up another Rushdie tale. Until then, I have several more promising books on my shelf waiting for my attention, including Sam Savage’s “The Cry of the Sloth” and Dave Eggers’ “The Wild Things.”

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