I’ve loved Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie since I read Midnight’s Children while backpacking across Europe.
So when I heard about this book I was like, “What the what? Salman Rushdie wrote a paranormal romance?!?” And I ran to Buffalo’s most awesome bookstore, Talking Leaves, to pick up a copy. Then we moved, so it’s taken me a while to get around to reading this puppy.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or, 1,001 nights) is the story of jinn princess Dunia and her mortal lovers. Also, a war between the jinn and the human realm.
What’s not to love, right?
Well, I know it’s going to break Rushdie’s heart, but this book was a tremendous disappointment.
I’ll start with the sex. Or, the complete lack of sex.
Now, there are many fine books out there without graphic sex scenes. King’s Gunslinger. Camus’s The Plague. O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. I wouldn’t hold the lack of explicit erotica against those fine authors.
But sex is a major part of Rushdie’s novel. It’s basically what the jinn do when they’re not invading earth, and it’s a huge part of the relationship between Dunia and her two mortal lovers (more about that later).
And how much of this pivotal, plot-forwarding sex happens off-stage?
ALL OF IT!
I know I look at the world in a, uh, particular way, being an erotica author and all. But still. Sex is the reason Dunia is attracted to her modern-day lover, it’s a huge weapon in the war between the two worlds, it’s the jinn’s main reason for being incarnate, and all Rushdie writes is, “They had sex.” Or, “They had sex for days.”
So what’s it like to have sex with a jinn?
Side note: I’m guessing there’s a clause in the Booker Prize Acceptance Paperwork that forbids the winner from ever writing erotica.
Second, I have to admit I didn’t dig Rushdie’s style this time around.
Sure, when I read Midnight’s Children I thought he was a genius. He may well be a genius, sex scenes aside.
But here I found his faux stream-of-consciousness writing irritating, and his clever run-on sentences that took up an entire page confused the hell out of me. Plus, many of his philosophical musings felt like they’d been shoehorned into the story, interrupting the action.
Does this make me low-brow?
It also meant I spent most of the novel slightly-to-mostly confused, and being confused meant I didn’t connect with the characters.
So when the world was ripped apart in poetic, page-long sentences, I was like:
Because I didn’t really give a damn about any of the characters. Or their love stories.
And that’s another thing!
The love stories. The book is billed as a love story, and yes, there is some love. The most convincing love story is between Dunia the jinn princess and the medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd. And it lasts, oh, five pages. The first five pages of the book.
The rest of the novel?
Characters just fall in love (or screw each other). Why? Well, Dunia falls for the humble, older gardener Geronimo because he looks like her former lover Ibn Rushd. And Geronimo falls in love with Dunia because she takes on the physical form of his deceased wife, which is not even a little bit creepy.
Also not creepy? Geronimo is Dunia’s descendant, a great-great-great-great-great grandson of Dunia and Ibn Rushd. Romantic, right?
And that’s not the only problematic love story. The depressed, filthy rich woman who owns the estate where Geronimo is the gardener also falls in love with Geronimo. Why Well, from what I can tell, it’s because A) Women are fickle and make no sense, and B) Few things are more attractive than a man in his 70s.
Like I said, one big, steaming pile of disappointment.
If you’re bound and determined to be highbrow, you can check out Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Days here.
Or, if you just want to look highbrow, you can buy a hardcopy of Rushdie’s book and wrap that dust jacket around an actual thought-provoking, philosophical, paranormal romance like Janine Ashbless’s Cover Him With Darkness or Rachel Alexander’s Receiver of Many.
Or, you know, my book.
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