The Ground Beneath Her Feet

by Salman Rushdie

Paperback, 1999




Henry Holt & Company (1999), Edition: First Edition, 575 pages


The romance of two Indian musicians who form a band. He is Ormus, a composer, she is Vina, an American-raised singer, and their romance plays out across continents, parallel universes and different lives-- she dying and returning for a second life.

Media reviews

Der neue Roman verbindet nun sogar das diesseitige Rockgeschäft mit uralten Mythen, verweist mit Vina und Ormus auf Orpheus und Eurydike, erzählt selbst über Rai eine ouverturehafte Geburtslegende und verweist damit zugleich auf das Auf- und Abbauen von Stars durch die Boulevardjournaille.
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Rushdie stellt diese Scheinwelt zudem in Science-Fiction-Manier auf den Kopf.
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1 more
"Instead of turning the Orpheus legend into a compelling postmodern myth, Rushdie has simply freighted an old story with his favorite themes and the random detritus of our current celebrity culture. In trying to write what he has called "an everything novel," he has produced a strangely hollow
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book, a book that lacks both the specificity and the magic that have enlivened his best work in the past. "
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User reviews

LibraryThing member zophiel666
This is a beautiful retelling of the Orpheus myth, recast in a not-quite-ours-modern day. Rushdie traveled on tour with the band U2 and took notes backstage for this story, and U2 fans will be delighted with slightly altered versions of some well-known-to-fans anecdotes. People who aren't U2 fans
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can also enjoy this beautifully written love story for it's lovely writing and engaging story.
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LibraryThing member hugh_ashton
I enjoyed it, but it's not my favourite Rushdie. It's grand in scope, but somehow seems flawed, even though the characters are often likeable and memorable.
LibraryThing member twallace
An epic novel following the lives of a mega singing star and her lovers. The characters and scenes in this book stayed with me for months after finishing it.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
The Ground Beneath Her Feet is an epic rock and roll love story. Spanning several lifetimes Rushdie tells the love story of Ormus and Vina, two musicians from Bombay. Their story is like a gigantic flood, catching up and describing in detail: cultures, mythologies, histories, industries
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(agriculture (goats!), music and beyond), the landscapes of India, England and America, their societies, religions, ancestries of families, personalities, births, deaths, emotions, tragedies, triumphs, anything and everything from the mid 1950s until the early 1990s. This is a sweeping story that cannot be pigeon-holed into a romance, mystery, or comedy. It is all these things and thensome. Suicides and secrets, miscarriages and murders, wealth and poverty, sane and strange, greedy and generous, brothers and sisters, twins and torture, and of course, sex, drugs and rock and roll.
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LibraryThing member jtho
It took me forever to read, but it was worth it. I'd read Midnight's Children and not really enjoyed it, but after Ground Beneath Her Feet, I'll definitely pick up more Rushdie. The book is genius - the plot, the language, the way everything is tied together in so many ways. It's funny, moving, and
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just a very unique story.
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LibraryThing member mbergman
An amazing novel--one of the best I've ever read. Rushdie is a cultural sponge, absorbing & smoothly integrating elements from the biblical tradition, Islam, Hinduism, & Greek & Roman mythology, along with amazing bits of Indian & American popular culture, especially popular music. The writing is
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brilliant & extremely clever, but never gets in the way of just telling a good story, a love story of two musicians with roots in India, but who eventually become legendary figures on the pop music scene in America--a retelling of sorts of the Orpheus myth. There's undoubtedly a lot here that I missed, but I'm grateful for the story & the meatiness that I was able to absorb.
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LibraryThing member billiecat
Rushdie's writing reveals English to be an entirely different language than you thought it was. His wordplay is needed to sustain you through the first few hundred pages of this book. Up until then, I found myself uninterested in the characters and finding Rushdie's "alternate world" gimmick
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tiresome (I know it's the hip thing for authors to put in jokes and veiled references to actual people in their fiction these days, but I can only take so much before it gets dull - and if you have to point it out to the reader, it's just a gimmick). But at some point the silly word games give way to deeper meanings, and you began to feel the characters coming alive. After that, the book, which had been running too slow, moves too quickly to its conclusion.
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LibraryThing member SirRoger
All I can say is wow. Reading a Salman Rushdie novel is like living another life, in another world, somewhat like our own, but mixed up in different ways. It's more like a saga than a novel, but as sagas go, it's one wild ride. Rushdie takes on the history of Rock 'n' Roll and the Orpheus myth.
LibraryThing member flissp
The book begins with the disappearance/death (during an earthquake) of Vina Apsara, rock goddess and the love of two mens lives; Ormus Cama, fellow rock star and Umeed "Rai" Merchant, photographer and narrator, both of whom she has know the majority of her life. Rai traces the history of Ormus,
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Vina, their band VTO and his own life from the 1950's to the 90's, through the changing face of Rock, via Bombay, London and the USA, to Vina's end in Mexico and beyond, in a universe that has twisted away from our reality and is suffering the consequences. There are many subtle and (mostly) not so subtle differences (Lou Reed is a woman, the assassination attempt on the life of JFK in 1963 was unsuccessful, VTO is the biggest band in the world...) between this world and our own but there also many (again, not so subtle) covert parallels.

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.
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LibraryThing member libraryhermit
I find it hard to imagine the characters of this book as real people, they are too fabulous--that is, coming out of fables. (I do not know if that is the real meaning of that word. No matter.)
Maybe they are just allegorical. Also does not matter.
I found myself wondering what the numerous songs
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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.
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LibraryThing member a211423
Chronicles Vina a pop star and Ormus a songwriter as their music and romance begin in Bombay in the fifties and takes you on their journey up to the end of the 20th century.
LibraryThing member drsnowdon
One of my favourite books of all time. The Ground Beneath Her Feet takes place through India, the UK, and the USA, following the interrelated cultures through rock music. I don't remember what classic tale this book is based on, but it took nothing away from the experience.
LibraryThing member trinityofone
I read this book because I liked the song based on it that Rushdie wrote with U2. (Always a good reason!) The book is great, too: vast and heart-breaking. But it's the little details that really get me, Rushdie's hints of this-world-not-our-world. Brilliant.
LibraryThing member kirstiecat
I think Rushdie can be a bit daunting sometimes because he's really an intellectual through and through. He fills his writing with countless references to mythology and history in a way that I find rewarding but some may find difficult. Rushdie creates the story of a band and music that grows to
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epic proportions. We follow the story of Rai, a photographer who falls precariously in love with Vina in India while still very much a boy. He basically devotes his whole life to Vina and the language is so strong that by the end, you forget that these characters really are fictional and didn't exist. Ormus, who Vina is also in love with, immediately recalls Freddie Mercury of the band Queen, who has many similarities. The other really engaging thing about this novel is following the characters, especially Rai from India to England to America. The only weakness is how it ends but I can forgive Rushdie this error as the rest of the writing in the novel is incredibly strong. This was the second time I read this one.
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LibraryThing member purplehena
I wanted to like this more. The song by U2 (I think it was inspired by the novel) is great, even though I think most U2 is overrated. But, while I liked the plot well enough, I just don't care for Rushdie's writing style. He could have cut a lot out, and then I wouldn't have had to carry around
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this big, heavy book (even in paperback), and I would have enjoyed it more.
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LibraryThing member raschneid
Good, wacky, epic, thought-provoking storytelling. I suspect I liked it better than Midnight's Children, possibly because it was more playful and inviting.

Also, you can tell that Rushdie genuinely enjoys genre fiction, which I appreciate in literary authors who find themselves accidentally writing
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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.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
Another amazing novel by Rushdie. This one is a modern day version of the Greek myth about Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, a musician, and Eurydice, a nymph were happily married when Eurydice steps on a poisonous snake and dies. Grieving Orpheus plays such sad and mournful music that the gods tell
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him to go to the Underworld and bring her back. He is told that he must not look back. He goes to retrieve her, but hearing her cries of anguish, he turns around and she is lost forever. In this modern day version, Orpheus is played by Ormus Cama, an Indian rock star, and Eurydice is Vina Aspara a pop American singer who leads a wild and decadent life - more of a nymphomaniac than a nymph. As with all of Rushdie's books, the prose is incredibly dense and he throws in many subtle allusions to modern day culture, current events, and the overall music industry. I love reading his books, but by the end of this book, I felt like I just completed a college course in the music industry with a touch of Greek mythology thrown in. Brilliant and exhausting.
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LibraryThing member padmajoy
I am a real fan of Salman Rushdie and have read with enjoyment most all of his books. I listened (or tried) to this book on audible and could not get through it. It is very long and at about half way I gave up; so it may not be fair for me to give it a rating but....
I found that Rushdie rambled and
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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.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
HOLY HELL. This was more an endurance marathon than a labour of love - two weeks, two whole weeks when I could have been reading other books, but realised too late and refused to quit. I read Midnight's Children years ago and enjoyed that story, but gave up second time round - which should have
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been a sign. This pretentious heap of mythologising twaddle, was ten times worse. India and music, I thought after reading the blurb; oh good, this should be interesting! NOPE.

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 b*tch - 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!
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LibraryThing member HavingFaith
The Ground Beneath Her Feet is a particularly extended fable, including elements of fame culture, divine and awesome natural talent (see also Jesus) bound and hobbled by vested commercial interests, an interface between the modern myths (Klingons, the language of Mordor) and the mystical heritage
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of the characters, the metaphor of the cataract rending the ground asunder and dragging the unworthy (or too good to be allowed to walk the Earth any longer) down to the chaos and underworld that exists just beneath the surface of human experience, returning a character to the ownership of the gods. Then there’s an unsettling connection to the contemporary Indian calamity that would have been fresh at the time this was written, the massacre at the Golden Temple of Amritsar, i.e. ethnic squabbling that still pervades humanity like the common cold. The trappings of fame eventually force one of the protagonists to become like Howard Hughes or Michael Jackson, living a cloistered existence behind their gilded gates, afraid to breathe the same air as us, endlessly repeating videos on too many screens. The challenge of this book is to reconcile what the ever changing India is and means, as derived from the India of this generation’s parents and grandparents. It’s the aspirational fantasy held by global youth contrasted with their origins in a more spiritual and non-commercial (equally fantasy) place. All the while though, Rushdie populates their surroundings with oddities, mangled successes of commerce, family tragedies and murderous relatives that they somehow have to absorb into their identities. The scope of this novel is amazing, an expanse, a plethora of material populated by so many allusions and metaphors that half of them will be lost on the readers; classical influence with myth-laden story-telling, strongly hinting at the intangible barriers between our illusion of stable reality and what chaos is lurking around us, like a tiger shadowing us from the other side and waiting for us to step off the beaten path. Chaos is interested though in the lead characters as their demi-god level of talent calls to it like Sauron’s ring. It’s hard to be sure which images are being claimed as fantasy and which are in the portrayal as real world and solid but the divine taker is tangible, a kraken of chaos under the lake with one eye open. When it all goes quantum, or earthquake, the ground level between reality and myth becomes liquid and unmeasurable, but then again all good myths draw elements from both the human psyche and real experiences. This is a very good book but was unbelievable at the same time, so I didn’t feel immersed and transformed by it in the way that I should have.
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LibraryThing member wickenden
I think this is my favorite Rushdie book yet.

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
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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.
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LibraryThing member petermcgurk
What this book really needed was a good would have been a far better read with about 100 pages lopped off it. I'm a big fan of Rushdie and his larger than life chanracters and worlds, but this one left me a bit cold and it was a relief to finish it.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
Reason read: special event, February 2024
I generally like Rushdie's writing but I struggled with this one. It is an ambitious work which you do expect from Rushdie. This is a retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth. Rock'n Roll is used in place of the lyre. It's a story of two men in love with the
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same women and it is set during the 50s to the 90s as an alternate history. There is a lot of music in the story as well as name dropping. I found it hard to engage with this book and I did not appreciate the sexual descriptions and language. I think people who love music, alternate histories, and retellings may find the book interesting.
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Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2001)
Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Winner — 2000)


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