Book Review – The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Some books are easy to read, some are even easier to review. But once in a while, a book comes along that is neither. You cannot read it in an easy manner, nor can you discuss it effortlessly. Writing about it takes time. The words, those flighty little nuisances, seem to be inadequate to express your thoughts and opinions in such cases. Perhaps this review will be the dud of reviews or will just be a rambling jumble of words that I end up typing, I don’t know.

Salman Rushdie does not need an introduction. His books have created enough notoriety and praise that the name is known, to some measure, everywhere. Pitifully, I have only read three of his previous books – Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses, and Luka and the Fire of Life. The Golden House now adds to that number.

The Golden House is about a man, Nero Golden, and his three sons – Petya, Apu, and D. Men who just leave their home and lives in an unnamed city in a far away, unnamed country. Nero and his motherless sons sprout up in the New York of the rich on a historic day – on the day of Obama’s inauguration. Nero reigns over everything in his life including his children. Perhaps that is his way of taking care of his troubled children. Forty something Petya, his oldest, is afraid of open spaces, autistic but a genius nevertheless. Apu (again in his forties) is the most normal one, an artist who has the clearest insight into his father’s life. D, eighteen years younger than his half brothers and not comfortable with his existence as defined by conventional terms. Oh, and Nero golden marries again. The new Mrs Golden, a Russian gymnast, is our fifth golden in the story.

The story of the Goldens is about their past, present and their troubles. It also is about what went down in the past, which gave birth to a seventy something Nero Golden. The story is narrated by Rene, the Goldens’ neighbour and an aspiring film maker. And in the Goldens, Rene finds his muse. He observes them, becomes their confidant and in a way their victim as well. Will the past catch up with them, will there be repercussions… these are questions that form in the reader’s mind as they slowly read through. And what a pleasure it was to read.

The Golden House comes with the standard reading that is synonymous with Rushdie. Some people like to keep their writing clean and simple. A few words form a sentence, and that’s that. But Rushdie’s sentences are written to entice us, or disgust us. If you have not read Salman Rushdie at all, here’s an example… of just two sentences.

“Gibreel, the tuneless soloist, had been cavorting in moonlight as he sang his impromptu gazal, swimming in air, butterfly-stroke, breast-stroke, bunching himself into a ball, spreadeagling himself against the almost-infinity of the almost-dawn, adopting heraldic postures, rampant, couchant, pitting levity against gravity. Now he rolled happily towards the sardonic voice.”

Either you will be thrilled with the way the words create magic or you will be exhausted just keeping up with them. I like to think of them as something very dreamlike. Not crystal clear dreams of happiness and joy, not nightmares either. But dreams of random thoughts, random things and random places all put together randomly, vividly.

It is dreams like these that one wakes up from and has a sense of engaged ennui. Like you have gone a hike and discovered a hidden lake. Only to find yourself thinking adoringly of copper pots and pans instead of the sunset lighting up the water. A completely disquiet calm – that is what dreams like these give me. And this is exactly what The Golden House made me feel while reading. Just as you are fabulously leafing through the lives of the Goldens, there is a copper pot or pan dangled and you have no choice but to give it your attention. But you will have no regrets, for the copper pots and pans are still brilliantly written words. Big words, smalls words, sentences that are just a couple of words or long enough to form a paragraph themselves, everything is to be read slowly. It takes time to savour such writing.

I have digressed much.

Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House is not just about the Goldens either. Yes, there is a plot involving the family, but it also depicts the times we live in. The timeline of the book, the Goldens New York lives, stretches from 2008 to present day. Their past even further back, I shall leave it out for you to discover.

Initially one tends to think of the seventy something Nero Golden, with his Russian wife, and three adult children, as opaquely resembling the 45th President of the United States. But that is not so. He features in the book in a different avatar, fondly referred to as the Joker. And it is fun to read these references. In a way, The Golden House manages to become a book with a plot, as well as a commentary on the society that we live in. It is left to the reader to decide if they should take all of this as the author’s rant about the present political situation in the US and the circus that led to it.

I feel I have written too much, yet too little about this book. I have probably missed out on at least half a dozen things that I wanted to write about regarding The Golden House. And so, I will end this post with a recommendation. Just go read it.

You can pick up a copy of The Golden House here – Amazon, Flipkart.

I thank everyone involved for sending me a copy for review.


The Golden HouseThe Golden House by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

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