Salman Rushdie - The Enchantress of Florence (3 stars)

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Salman Rushdie - The Enchantress of Florence

(Jonathan Cape)

RENAISSANCE NOVEL

There is much to admire in this ornate, complex Renaissance romp from Salman Rushdie, but when one of the main characters declares at one point: ‘A curse on all storytellers’, it’s hard not to agree, at least in part. A mysterious, yellow-haired Florentine traveller arrives in the Mughal court of Emperor Akbar (situated in modern day India) to reveal a secret which changes everyone’s lives.

The stranger is a wonderful creation, as is Akbar – both are complex, shifting characters riddled with contradictions – and Rushdie uses them well to examine his themes of truth and lies, the power of imagination and comparisons between East and West. But The Enchantress of Florence is also a frustrating read. Rushdie has clearly done immense historical research, and his characters and plot are often suffocated by it, with the endless diversions of the narrative not helping matters. Striking in parts, certainly, but also heavy going for long stretches.

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