Well… You never feel great when you are about to give a not-so-glowing review to a really well known, acclaimed writer’s work. But the review’s gotta be honest. So honest it will be. In fact, I’ve recently written a post about how to write a review for a book that you didn’t like, when it happens to be famous. It wasn’t inspired by The Golden House though!
Maybe it was wrong to request an ARC by Salman Rushdie when I’ve never read his work before (although I have another book of his, so I will be giving him another chance), but I was also so excited, particularly because I’ve never read his books. Now I’m just wondering – was it this one, or is it just his style I don’t really like..? Anyway, here’s what the book is about:
Despite most rich people being somewhat weird, the ones inhabiting The Golden House are even weirder. It’s not that they’ve taken great care to hide where they’ve come from. The funniest thing about their secretiveness happens to be that they’ve given themselves complete Roman patrician names and pretty much believe themselves to be such. It’s a complicated act which involved them believing it to become who they are. But our main character really wants to get to the bottom of it, and even make a movie about them. So he gets involved into their family tragedy, and probably a little deeper than he wanted to. And so the story rolls on…
The Golden House is crafted like a good, well-written classical tragedy – perhaps that’s what I’d say if I knew my literary sciences. Which I don’t, so I can just present a hunch that that’s how it is. It kind of weaves together with their Roman “roots” and pretenses. However, I felt it extremely long winded. The biggest drawback for me in this book was its particular structure, which is more or less like this:
- 0-40%: main character introduces the entire neighbourhood and the Golden family. Nothing but epic foreshadowing is happening.
- 40-60%: enter some new characters. Drop some more hints. Nothing real is still going on.
- 60-80%: the book suddenly explodes with stuff going on and it finally engages me! This is where most of the tragedy happens.
- 80-100%: nothing… continues happening. There is a resolution, but it’s very transparent and I feel like it didn’t even need telling.
Basically? I felt like half the book was essentially about nothing.
However, some positive facts have to be mentioned. The book deals with the questions of identity, of gender and sex, understanding who you are, can and want to be. I felt like it was well dealt with, as it distills the essence of why some of us can’t understand that physical sex and gender are not the same (or rather, we only try to think of it as the same because of our culture and tradition, but it’s not the only culture or tradition in history). I really liked these diversity talks – it also helped me understand the sometimes complicated logic of all of that stuff, the whys and hows, and answer some questions about it for myself. Apart from that, there’s the genius comparison of the current state of political affairs to what we all understand so well – pop culture – by referring to it as The United States of Joker. Where scalpel playing cards and lapel flowers squirting acid are fun. Isn’t it genius? If anything, that’s the one part the book is truly worth a read for!
In a nutshell? The Golden House is a modern history of a family’s demise, almost in the classical tragedy tradition. However, it also seemed like a jumble of modern, interesting, smart ideas, but no reason to even have them there. Maybe I’m just not post-modern enough? Or literary enough? I always maintain that it’s something I’ve missed, but I feel like The Golden House could have taken 40% of the pages and still said just as much. Most of the time it kind of bored me, to be honest. I’ll be happy to read other people’s reviews to see what they managed to find in it! My final verdict:
I thank Random House and Salman Rushdie for providing a digital review copy through NetGalley in exchange to an honest review. And while this book was not quite for me, maybe it is for you! If you consider getting it, keep in mind that you support this blog by buying it from Book Depository using this link.
Have you read anything else by Salman Rushdie? If you’ve written a review for this book or have an opinion, please share!