The story in the book is about a visit by a Florentine man to the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar, claiming to be a long lost relative. But the The Enchantress of Florence is about stories themselves, stories told by the characters, interweaving and overlapping with reality. There’s a good mix of history, fiction and the fantastic to be found here, reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. And while the Mughal emperor may claim kinship to the gods, this book is far more earthy capturing in words humanity at its basest in war, sex, and filthy, filthy language.
The writing style of the book just oozes with machismo, especially as read by Firdous Bamji. I’ve never read Rushdie before so I don’t know if this is typical of his writing style but it is well-suited to the time and the characters. Women don’t come off well in this novel as they are sexualized, objectified, vain, coquettish, mystified, and even imaginary to the men that see them only as mirrors. The way Rushdie piles on the stereotypes in a Joycean fashion leads me to believe it is meant as parody. Despite all the unpleasantness, Rushdie creates something beautiful in his words.
This is the best type of novel their is: one that transport you to a different place and time for an escape yet shares stories and ideas that make you think.
Recommended books: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson