The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie, Random House, 2008, 349 pp
At last I have read a book by Salman Rushdie after intending to for years. I must admit, I was somewhat intimidated by just the idea of this author and worried that I might not understand him. I've not read any of his earlier books.
The Enchantress of Florence is historical, set in India and Florence in the 1500s. I have read loads of historical fiction so I was fine with that. Also Rushdie studied history for years in college, so while the four and a half page bibliography at the back shows he did his research, he has a historian's background as well, making him enough at ease that the fictional liberties he takes feel smooth.
If you are the type of reader who begins to whine when the cast of characters goes above five, do not read this novel. If you must have everything nailed down to the real and provable, chose another book. In fact, there are many characters in Renaissance Florence, including Niccolo Machiavelli; myriad characters in Akbar the Great's Indian empire; some characters who move between locations; and imaginary persons as well. In addition, the dates of the historical personages do not quite match up, a fact that is freely admitted during the telling of this magical tale.
The Enchantress of Florence is a fairy tale for adults and had me as enthralled as I ever was when I loved Cinderella, Snow White, etc, in my much younger years. There are several mysteries throughout the tale, all of which are nicely resolved. With lighthearted aplomb, Rushdie delves into questions of love, power, religious belief, freedom and all the variations of those weighty ideas.
I finished feeling that I had been conducted through a magical mystery tour while being invited and allowed to contribute to the entire experience. As my sister would say, fabulous!
(The Enchantress of Florence is available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)