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The Golden House: Salman Rushdie’s New Novel Gets Mixed Reviews

Salman Rushdie’s 13th novel, The Golden House, is receiving mixed reviews all over the world.

The book, released on Sept. 5, follows the Golden family who are Indian immigrants living in a secluded mansion in Greenwich Village through the eyes of their neighbor, René. The novel  explores, in the backdrop of contemporary American culture and politics, “love and terrorism, loss and reinvention,” according to publishing house Penguin Random House. The book starts with the election of Barack Obama, and comes to the election of a cartoonish Joker, a thinly-veiled attack on Donald Trump.

When Time magazine asked Rushdie, who is now an American citizen, what would happen if his novelistic attack on the US President reaches him, he said: “I would be interested in receiving his tweet.”

The reviews for Rushdie’s novel, and his most realistic book so far, as touted by his publisher, are divided. Dwight Garner came down heavily against the novel, in The Independent: “Rushdie has left cool English so far behind that his fiction has grown bombastic and close to unreadable. His new novel, The Golden House, is his thirteenth. Each sentence in it is a Cirque du Soleil leap into a net that only he can see. Each sentence seems to be composed of stardust, pixie dust, fairy dust, angel dust, fennel pollen and gris-gris powder, poached in single-udder butter, fried and refried, encrusted with gold as if it were a Gustav Klimt painting, and then dotted with rhinestones.”

The Evening Standard’s Jerome Boyd Maunsell was lukewarm about his experience of the book: “The extraordinary alchemy of Midnight’s Children was its miraculous fusion of the fantastical and the historical. The melding of the Goldens’ story with recent American history doesn’t come off as successfully as Rushdie’s best work. And when we hear the long-delayed tale of Nero and what has brought him to the US from India, this whole swirling narrative of self-making and reinvention rings strangely, deliberately, hollow, too in love with deceptive surfaces itself, while laced with resonant contemporary echoes.”

Oindrila Mukherjee from Scroll.in was impressed with Rushdie’s cinematic prose: “The novel can be read as a chronicle of America in recent years, leading up to the present, troubled, Presidency. But that is only a part of it. At the heart lies a page-turner that is the stuff of blockbusters. There’s something breathtaking about the combination of contemporary events that we have all witnessed and are part of even now, and the gripping story of crime and passion, all narrated in such baroque prose.”

Stephen Romei was generous in it’s praise for what he called a “tragicomedy” and wrote for The Australian: “Yes, it is that kind of novel, comic and confronting. It’s like Rushdie is storming through the streets swinging an axe, a bit like that other writer, Jack Torrance, in The Shining. I laughed out loud a lot more than I usually do. Trump is not named, but what unfolds is set in his imperial era, and Rushdie, via his now-named narrator Rene, a would-be filmmaker who befriends the Goldens, does not still that axe.”

According to Nishtha Gautam from The Quint, while Rushdie may have abandoned the surrealism of Midnight’s Children, he does not abandon magic altogether. She said: “Leaving the safe harbours of his trusted magic realism, he rides the wave of realism atop the magical board of the celluloid. The story of the Golden family and their house in New York’s Greenwich Village is a film in the making, with all its joys, epiphanies and frustrations slipping in and out of the consciousness of the film-maker narrator. Since he is Rushdie’s narrator, brace yourself for a bombardment of references that emerge out of, and go far beyond, the world of cinema.”