Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rusdie
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rusdie
Release Date: September 8 U.S and September 10 in U.K
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Pre-order your copy here: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from netgalley (and Random House) in exchange for an honest review.
There is no question that Rushdie is a great story teller and his latest endeavor is no exception. One of the things that I love about his books is that they can be read on multiple levels. On the surface, they are entertaining stories that can be read for the sole enjoyment of the weird, wacky, and intelligently humorous ride. Yet, on a deeper level, his books are filled with symbolism, allusions, and often complicated philosophical questions that lead to a richer and more interesting reading experience.
I have found some of his books rather challenging (but in a fun way) and dense. Many of his novels are not easy/quick reads. They require concentration, perseverance, and willingness to dig deep into the text (I read The Satanic Verses with an online guide to help me pick up on all the references) — the way all good books should be. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is one of his more accessible books (and one of his shorter ones) and as good a place as any to start if you (gasp!) haven’t read any of his works.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1001 nights for the mathematically impaired) is a novel inspired by The Arabian Nights. You don’t have to have read The Arabian Nights in order to understand or enjoy this one, but having read it does make picking up references more fun. In similar structural fashion, Two Years… contains stories nested within stories connected by a central story. Humankind finds itself in the middle of a great war between the jinn (a.k.a. genies) spanning 1001 nights. Sparked by a theological debate between rationalist Ibn Rushd and Ghazali about the existence of God (truthfully, the argument is a little more complex than that), the war is a time of upheaval for the humans caught in the middle. Luckily during Ibn Rushd lifetime, Dunia (a princess of the jinn) fell in love with Ibn Rushd and spawned a ludicrous number of half-magical children and their descendants are called in to battle and save humankind from extinction.
On the surface level, it’s pure fantasy replete with flying carpets, genies, levitating humans, star-crossed love stories, and comic-book style superheroes. Yet, simmering just below the surface, this book hits close to home with regard to many current events. It doesn’t take an astute reader to quickly figure out that the story is a clear analysis of religious fundamentalism (a theme Rushdie has tackled before in other books) and the age old religion vs. science/reason debate. Two Years… tackles a variety of interesting themes including faith vs. reason, gender relations, power & control, and morality.
It is witty, intelligent, and an overall fun read that I highly recommend. Here are some quotes I enjoyed (and that don’t give away any plot lines):
If you walk away from God you should probably try to stay in the good books of Luck
In American mouths “Hieronymus’ quickly became “Geronimo” and he enjoyed, he had to admit, the Indian-chiefy allusion. He was a big man like his father with big competent hands, a think neck and hawkish profile and with his Indian-Indian complexion and all, it was easy for Americans to see the Wild West in him and treat him with the respect reserved from remnants of peoples exterminated by the white man, which he accepted without clarifying that he was Indian from India and therefore familiar with a quite different history of imperialist oppression, but never mind.
When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, it was an accident, but when she stepped through the looking glass, it was of her own free will, and a braver deed by far.
Sister wasn’t and had never been a nun but folks called her Sister because of her religious temperament and a supposed resemblance to the actress Whoopi Goldberg. Nobody had called her C.C. since her late husband departed this life with a buxom younger person of the Latina persuasion and ended up in hell, or Albuquerque, which were just, two names for the same one place.
I loved the book for both the magical story (and nested stories within) and for the thoughtful and funny commentary underlying the story. Perfect for readers who enjoy fantasy and mythology with philosophical and analytic threads weaved into the storyline.
Want to try it for yourself? The book comes out September 8 in the U.S. You can pre-order your copy here: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel