Winner of England's prestigious Whitbread Ward, Rushdie's first novel in seven years is a peppery melange of genres: a deliciously inventive family saga; a subversive alternate history of modern India; a fairy tale as inexhaustibly imagined as any in The Arabian Nights; and a book of ideas on topics from art to ethnicity, from religious fanaticism to the terrifying power of love.
The one foreshadowing I cannot forgive involves a "walkman" and its use as a tool of destruction. Too mundane a plot my dear Mr. Rushdie!
I originally bought "The Moor's Last Sigh" a couple of years ago when I was going on holiday to southern India since the first part of the book is set in and around Cochin, the spice capital, which was one of the places I visited. Hence I have seen and visited a number of the places mentioned in the book, including the harbour, the synagogue, the spice shops in the old Jewish quarter and St Francis' church, as well as the famous "Chinese" fishing nets.
The first half of the book is just about flawless - a wonderful family history of the most vivid characters - not all good or all bad, but good and bad in very believable ways; not constant, but very humanly inconsistent. And the story line woven from these characters is just as compelling as the characters themselves, with a weaving of the current characters into a backdrop of historical references.
The second half of the book isn't quite as good. The word play and flourishes become a little undergraduate - the Cashondeliveri family, and the four siblings named in accordance with eeny, meenie, mynie and mo. And the story line goes a little overboard - the Moor's life is lived at double speed - his bood is 40 years old when he turns 20; the patriarch extends his successful business career into drug smuggling and nuclear weapon proliferation.
But even with flaws this was a wonderful read.
Read March 2016
"The Moor's Last Sigh" is the story of the Zogoiby family -- ruled over by a self-involved matriarch Aurora, an artist of some importance in her corner of India. The narrator of her book is her son Moor, who tells the story of several generations of his family, who are all pretty hell-bent on destroying themselves.
I really enjoyed Rushdie's use of language- he is a clever and entertaining writer. The story is mostly compelling too. I also felt it was a little too sprawling at times and wished it would wander back on over to the point. I definitely will read more books by Rushdie, based on my experience with this one.
I read this before going to Kerala--Cochin in 2016 and it added a dimension that was welcome.
Perhaps one of Rushdie's more accessible novels, the story follows a more conventional narrative, although to call anything Rushdie writes conventional is inaccurate. In this case the story follows a family history, that of the Zoigoby clan, which takes us into Jewish, Moorish, Spanish and Indian heritage, illuminating perfections and defects of the body, mind and spirit. There is very much a theme of isolation of spirit and intellect in this novel, of loneliness despite crowded and intimate environments. In conjunction with that Rushdie marries political unrest to to restless spirits, so that both microcosmic and macrocosmic time flow around and through each other, so that one has a sense of a ship tossed upon a boundless sea.
As always there is a fluid and adept use of language and phraseology that defies every literary convention, and in doing so creates breathtaking art. One comes away wanting to memorize phrases for their utter beauty and sagacity. But let it not be thought this is a novel only of high art, for certainly throughout the story Rushdie's irreverent and incisive wit prevail, so that at times I caught myself bursting into laughter.
I would have to say that if a person is new to Rushdie's work, The Moor's Last Sigh would be a perfect introduction.
Highly recommended, and certainly a novel that should be a staple in anyone's library.
Rushdie, as usual, is too, too much. He drops in new characters, makes abrupt shifts, skips in geography, and invents new layers of fiction. Nothing is final, nothing decided. Except the ending.