Published: July 12th 2016 (first published 2015)
Publisher: Random House
Genres: Adult Fiction, Magical Realism, Literary Fiction, Cultural, Mythology
Format: Paperback Source: Won
My Rating: 4 Stars
From Salman Rushdie, one of the great writers of our time, comes a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a breathtaking achievement and an enduring testament to the power of storytelling.
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.
Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.
Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.
Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.
I had no expectations going into Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. I wanted to be surprised, and let the author lead me into whatever world he has drawn. This book is a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of something I can’t quite name. It took me about 4 days to get through the 304 pages. It started off really interesting, but then it would become rather info-dumpy and preachy, and I’d have to take a break. I was reading it at work and one of the ladies from HR told me that it was one of her favorite books that she read last year. Well, I couldn’t ignore that so I made it my mission to reach that turning point where I would be so caught up in the story that I’d lose track of time. Firstly, Rushdie truly is a great writer from my viewpoint. I want to go back and read some of his other books, but that’ll have to wait since my library doesn’t have them in.
If you love Arabian mythology, more specifically Jinn/Jinni, then you may enjoy this. However, I must point out that it’s more like literary sprinkled with magical realism and fantasy-like visuals. Right off the bat we are given the history of Dunia, a Jinniri princess, who loved a mortal man, Ibn. After Ibn dies, Dunia goes back to her realm, leaving her children high and dry. I’m like, why? Why leave these children in a mortal world where you know they will grow and have powers? That’s just asking for trouble. The tricky parts are spread throughout time from the descendants of Dunia’s offspring. And when things start happening in Dunia’s world and the mortal world, she somehow thinks, okay, time to go and save my children’s children children…… This book isn’t told from first person POV, so that in itself is distracting a little bit when you have all this magic happening. I wanted to really connect with Dunia, Jimmy, Geronimo, Zabar…. but the way the story is told you only get that these characters are at war. Good jinn, bad jinn, makes no difference how you see it. Which brings me to my next point.
Let me say now that I do not like religion thrown in my face. I have mine, you have yours, they have theirs. I am not trying to be converted, so please leave me with the theatrics of “you should” believe in this or that because it’s the only reasonable explanation. I believe in my God, but I also believe everyone has the right to choose whom they worship or not. Millions of people have been killed because of their religion. Wars have started because of religion. Everyone is accountable for their actions. And so, Rushdie lost me with the religious aspects of this book. Even though I had a few rough patches with this, It is still a really interesting read. You think about things, but maybe not deeply? All I know is that I love a good story that brings up, IMO, questionable motives behind the writer. What does he believe in? Who does he follow? Well, I think we can all discern from reading this that Rushdie has quite the imagination. Or not.
Overall, I like this book a lot. Even with the not-so-comfortable parts. It’s very visual, and written in 3rd person, so it’s also very limited. I like the dramatic prose with the magical realism. I recommend this to readers who can see past the preaching in this book, and just settle in for One Thousand and One Nights of hell on Earth in this world Rushdie has created.
*Many thanks to the publisher and Goodreads First Reads for this book*