Book Review: Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-eight nights, by Salman Rushdie

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The title of Rushdie’s most recent book is a play on 1001 nights – you only need to do the maths to work that out. Not having finished a Rushdie novel before, nor having deep knowledge of the stories that make up 1001 nights, I felt a bit on the back foot from the get-go, so I brushed up my understanding but really, I don’t think it was necessary!

Rushdie has created a wildly imaginative work of intertwined stories, plots and characters from this world and another one. The book is set in New York in a post-catastrophe future; there has been a crack in the fabric of the world so that the jinns can get in. They do, of course, and create havoc and mischief as they interfere in the lives of the main characters – many of whom are part-jinn without being aware.

There is a vast field of characters – the earth-bound include Mr Geronimo, a gardener who wakes up one morning to find that his feet no longer touch the ground, rather disconcertingly. He carries on his life regardless. There’s also an orphaned baby who is adopted by the Mayor of New York after she realises that the baby has the ability to spot corruption in anyone who comes near her. Usefully, those who are corrupt or have evil intent spontaneously develop boils or other skin infections, so the Mayor’s life is made easier. And that’s just two of the characters in a cast of what seems like hundreds.

The Jinn – although fewer in number – are equally complex and brilliant. Unless Jinn are engaged in making love, however, their proclivities become violence and evildoing. Take away their playtime, and all hell breaks loose, literally.

The war which ensues covers 1001 nights: it’s an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, and it’s not hard to see recent world events and developments playing out there.

It’s a mad book – in a good sense. It romps along and even though it’s hard to keep up with the chain of events and characters, you’re drawn in to the whole dark side and keen to see how it all plays out.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie
Published by Jonathan Cape Ltd
ISBN 9781910702048