Vina Aspara, a famous and much-loved singer, is caught up in a devastating earhtquake and never seen again. This is her story, and that of Ormus Cama, the lover who finds, loses, seeks and again finds her throughout his extraordinary life in music. It is narrated by Ormus's childhood friend, Rai.
The story is described as a retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth and certainly the theme keeps reappearing, as do many other links between myth, religion and reality, at heart, however, it's the classic love triangle with a twist or two, set in the world of Rock.
First of all, I want to state for the record that I very much enjoyed it. However, despite this and being completely absorbed every time I picked it up, I did find myself constantly being distracted by other books. What I'm saying, I think, is that it wasn't a truly gripping book in the usual sense. This wasn't completely because the book starts with the end - there are enough twists and turns throughout that you know the end at the beginning is not the whole story (if you follow my tongue twister!).
The photographic imagery at various moments is incredibly vivid (there are one or two scenes I can picture now), and the many minor characters, and their stories, wonderful, but at times the plot becomes a little ponderous. The structure jarred me a little too - 5/6 of the book leading back up to the earthquake and then what felt (to me anyway) like a sudden change of direction and, in some ways, pace, for the final 1/6. I also struggled a little with just why these two men (and indeed the whole world) would fall in love with such an irritating character as Vina (oooh I hate it when people end every sentence with a question? Even when it's not obviously a question? You know what I mean?!) - and, indeed, the fact that every single character seems to be incredibly self-absorbed (not just those who are famous - seriously, I'm really struggling to think of a character with more than a couple of lines who isn't). But these were really quite minor annoyances in the general scheme of things and I really am glad that I read this.
No less of a deep dive into Bombay, India, Europe, current political events, religion and history than the other books of his I've read, this one adds Rock and the modern world as a central theme, and the mythical-magical, so to speak analysis of power and alternate worlds teeming with real and unreal examples of iconic ways that the world just is.
The Orpheus and Eurdike storyline this is woven around is brilliantly exhumed and turned into living rock, it's the most amazing story, the most beautiful language. I loved this book.
Also, you can tell that Rushdie genuinely enjoys genre fiction, which I appreciate in literary authors who find themselves accidentally writing what amounts to fantasy literature.
The only thing I didn't really care for were the first fifty pages or so, before we really got to know the characters. They felt too over-the-top. The rest of the novel was over-the-top too, but the narrative had earned it.
I found that Rushdie rambled and that lots of the parts seemed irrelevant to the main story. Even though the Satanic Verses was long and had many characters I found them all interesting; and although I did have to listen to it three times I enjoyed each time. I could not enjoy The Ground Beneath Her Feet or get interested in the characters. I also did not find it at all funny though as a rule I love Rushdie's humor.
It could be that the main problem with this book for me was that I intensely disliked the narrator. The narrator (I kindly do not remember his name) spoke with a British (?) accent and he was portraying Indian characters. I found this very unpleasant and disorienting.
I shall read other reviews and find out why others liked it. I did not.
You know those chapters in classic novels like Les Mis, where the author goes off on a tangent and most readers learn to cheat by skipping? The bulk of this book is like that. The narrator, Rai, is a photographer, but also apparently a pseudo philosopher who likes the sound of his own voice (Salman, is that you?) The actual plot is about his obsession with a singer, Vina, and her world-conquering fame, which she achieves as part of a duo with her star-cross'd lover Ormus. Only I didn't believe in VIna's charismatic personality - she's basically a diva, and a bitch - and I certainly didn't swallow her amazing love affair with Ormus. But Rushdie being Rushdie, we also get backstories for miles, about his parents and her parents and the partition of India (again), and also - bonus! - some mad parallel universe which Ormus can see after a car crash. I'm just so tired. I started skimming through when I got to the 400s, but even that took too long. But at least I'm free now!
Maybe they are just allegorical. Also does not matter.
I found myself wondering what the numerous songs described in the book would really sound like. I guess if anybody was ever actually making a movie out of it, they would have to come up with a band and a composer and a singer to try to cook up something remotely reminiscent of the text of the novel.
It is not the most memorable novel I have ever read. I do not like fantasy that much. At first glance, it seems unbelievable. But then again, what story that I can think of does not have at least a few scarcely believable parts to it! It does not really matter if it is believable at all. All kinds of facts or fictions do not seem vraisemblable. All that matters is what you do with them as an author. My distaste for this book is not a reflection on the quality of the book, because I acknowledge that it was well written. But rather, I personally have a taste for meeting personalities other than the type highlighted in this book. I do not really care about music that much any more, although at one point in my life, I was quite consumed by it. Now, it is definitely more in the realm of words that I am working.