Ruined by Reading

The Enchantress of Florence

Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction by M on June 20, 2009


Title: The Enchantress of Florence
Author: Salman Rushdie
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers – the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with question of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolo Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. Profoundly moving and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.

Several years ago I attempted to read The Satanic Verses. Twice. I couldn’t get more than a few chapters in. After that, I wrote Salman Rushdie off as a bad writer, and one I could never enjoy. I know – it was an unfair judgment to make based on one book. When I then saw The Enchantress of Florence on several of last years ‘best of 2008’ lists and decided to give Rushdie one more try.

It’s a story where men can bring their dreams alive as well as escape into them. The story, including all the little details, is quite beautiful and I loved how it seemed like such a fairy tale.  I also enjoyed how funny this book was at times, as well as vulgar and seems as though it is intended to be a parody of the time.

There were lots of little hidden jokes and meanings in the text. I’m sure that I didn’t pick up on them all. For example, in the beginning, the Emperor fights the ruler of the kingdom of Kuch Nahin, which means “nothing”. The Kingdom of Nothing. I also liked how he made the distinction between Jodha Bai and Mariam-uz-Zamani. Mariam was his real wife while Jodha Bai was a phantom. I interpret this to be Rushdie’s way of pointing out how the historical figure which people call Jodha Bai was never Jodha Bai – the name was incorrectly given to Mariam-uz-Zamani much later and so this is why Jodha Bai is a fictional being while Mariam is very real.

I didn’t like the parts that took place in Italy. I thought they were a little boring and a little complicated. I mostly enjoyed the parts that took place in the Mughal Court.

I’ve heard and read that The Enchantress of Florence is one of Rushdie’s easiest reads. If that’s the case, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy his previous works. But I really loved this one.

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2 Responses

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  1. Veens said, on June 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    :) I have this book! And I really need to read it :) Thanks for the lovely review!

  2. Sunday Salon: Long Time, No See « said, on July 5, 2009 at 6:06 am

    […] my last Sunday Salon, I reviewed several books: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, How to Win a Cosmic War by Reza Aslan, The Old Man and […]


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