Okay, yes, I’m a fan of Rushdie and I’ve read 9 of his 12 adult novels in addition to the memoirs written under his pseudonym, Joseph Anton. I’ve found his works to be rather uneven in quality, but I certainly keep reading. Midnight’s Children is his magnum opus but my favorite is The Satanic Verses. The Golden House falls somewhere in between along with The Enchantress of Florence and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The Golden House
by Salman Rushdie
2017 / 381 pages
read by Vikas Adam – 14h 39m
rating: 9.25 / contemporary
(read and listened)
The thing is that Rushdie is an incredible story-teller, sometimes of the magical variety, sometimes not so much. And he’s often a satirist, but not always. His works are also funny and passionate as he celebrates our mongrel-ness with love. His imagination is pretty wild and I never quite know where it’s going to go – I likely would’t stand this from any other author by Rushdie makes it feel like the Arabian Nights where almost anything can happen.
The Golden House is a satire of today’s world including our latest president and identity politics. Sad to say, I suspect with all the film allusions and references quite a lot went right over my head. That’s okay – it’s a great novel – ever so much fun – a romp with a little message. And it’s a bit over-the-top at times. Fine – it’s story-telling.
The narrative is structured as a modified film script within a novel and there are old stories and new ones, Hindu tales and crime stories- a mishmash. This gets a bit gimmicky.
Rushdie’s characters often seem a tad contrived, but that’s no problem in this book – Old man father Nero Golden came with his three sons from nowhere, set up a very high maintenance household in New York’s finest district, and thus began his downfall. This doesn’t mean he has escaped – he’s not quite escaped whatever it was he did wherever it was he was he did it. Not yet.
The story goes back and forth between probably 1970 (the birth of his first son in a back story) to sometime after 2017. Most of the frame story takes place between 2008 and 2016 in New York City but there are parts which take place in India including the 2008 bombing .
There are places where the story-line gets confusing and other places where it slags,, but for the most part it’s riveting. And the very best part is the ending. Yes!
The descriptions of the main characters will tell you something about the book:
*1st person – Rene Unterlinden (under tree?), a neighbor of the Golden family in very, very upscale New York City. He’s an adult but lives with his parents who are upscale university professors. His life becomes intertwined with that of the Goldens through the youngest son, “D” who is about Rene’s age.
* Nero Golden – father of a family of three boys – very rich businessman and very material pragmatic capitalist. Like a dominating patriarch. The family came, not too long ago, from an “unnamed” place and became American quickly.
*Petya – eldest son – autistic? age 42 – heavy drinking, a polymath/genius and computer game entrepreneur – but he’s completely socially awkward. That’s okay – he falls in love with a Somali woman named Ubah –
*Apu – Lucius Apuleius Golden – second son – age 41 – upscale urban wanderer – sophisticated and more mystically inclined – a very gifted painter – a charmer as disguise. Also falls in love with Ubah Tuur – trouble.
*Ubah Tuur – woman sculptor from Somalia –
*Dionysus – “D” – Nero’s child by another woman, a mistress who went away and died. – 18 years younger than Apu (and same age as 1st person narrator – they’re friends). Androgynous. Poor relations with brothers – felt excluded. He’s another beautiful charmer but that’s a disguise because he’s quite dark underneath. Uses the I Ching and does divination. Tries to figure out his sexuality.
*Vasalisa – At the outset there is no woman in the house, but Nero marries Vasalisa and it brings quite a lot of trouble. (If you can be transgender, what else can be trans?
*Riya Z. – “D’s” friend/lover – works at museum and sings. Indian/Swedish – – D Golden and Riya Z. Museum of Identity. She loves him but …
*Suchitra – Rene’s lover.
*Fwiw – a guy named “The Joker” (Gary “Green” Gwynplaine) plays the part of Trump with all his crude danger. .
There’s so much more … definitely a novel of and for today –