When deciding which books to take on holiday to Australia with me, it was harder than I thought to select a couple from the BBC Top 100. Most of the books I have left to read from the list of the nation’s best-loved books aren’t what one would describe as beach reads. From Dickens to Dostoyevsky, the thought of sweating my through a Russian great or a Dickensian tome wasn’t an appealing one. And thus, knowing little about Midnight’s Children – other than the controversy it courted and it’s Indian backdrop – I settled on Salman Rushdie’s best known book.
At number 100 in the BBC’s poll, Midnight’s Children was published in 1981 and deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. The book opens at the stroke of midnight and the precise moment of India’s independence as Saleem Sinai is born. Destined from birth to be special, he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, with whom Saleem is telepathically linked.
Unbeknown to Saleem, however, a mix-up at birth has taken place, and Midnight’s Children follows the intricate path of his life as we visit India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and witness and series of twists, turns and unexpected events.
As much a tale of a nation as a person, Midnight’s Children does not follow a plot in its standard form, and instead is a clash of colour and culture that offers a very real representation of India. Rushdie’s dense writing does not make for the easiest of reads, but despite this by the time the novel had finished, I had formed a deep attachment to the characters that lay therein.