10 February 2019

Book Review: The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

This was such a complex book. As with typical Rushdie novels, this book feels like a maze, where you explore as you enter, room by room. The narrative is narrated by Moraes "Moor" Zogoiby, the youngest member of the Da Gama-Zogoiby family. Magical realism is present in the air, since Moor somehow grows twice as fast than typical people. So at the end of the book, he is just 36 years old, but physically he is already at the ripe age of 72.

This defect, as you may call it, is the backdrop of the entire book: Rushdie takes his readers through several generations of two families living in southern India. It's a fantastic tale, and a story that made me flip back and forth at the family tree that was conveniently provided at the very beginning. As with other Rushdie novels, this novel is written in the frame narrative, so there are stories that are embedded within other ones, with very intricate detail, and sometimes it can be hard to see how this branch of the narrative is connected with another branch.

One thing I liked a lot about this book was the wordplay and the puns. Oh my gosh, Rushdie went all in with this. If you know enough about English linguistic pop culture (e.g. if you know about "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe") then you'll get the wordplay. There's plenty embedded in here, and sometimes they just made me laugh. It takes great skill to craft a story this complex and still incorporate such tricks.

Several real-life events are incorporated in this story. However, since I am not really familiar with Indian contemporary history, then sometimes they pass by and I fail to notice them. In any case, this defect of mine hasn't prevented me from fully enjoying the novel.

There isn't a general plot in the novel, rather, it is a historical narrative of the stories and tales that surround a dynasty of spice traders in India, culminating in Moraes Zogoiby, the reluctant main character of the novel, only because he's the last person in his family who is still alive.

In any case, this is a fantastic novel, and given Rushdie's other offerings, this one is relatively easy to get into. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

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