Mostly, I use to avoid the books of writers like Salman Rushdie – Booker Winners – saying, theirs would be too complicated. But the name of this book attracted me to buy it.
Then also, it was on a shelf for some time. But once I start reading this book, I realized, I would have missed a lot of wonderful experiences it offered, had I not lured by the name.
It’s a scintillating story about a Moghul princess, Qara Koz – The Lady Black Eyes – who was erased from the history (as per the Novel) by Babar as she was refused to go back him once his captor was defeated.
Novel starts in the Akbar’s period with a young man from Florence arriving to the court of Akbar to apprise him about the princess. When he explains the fears he had whether Akbar will believe in his story and all, I thought the protagonist of the story is either Akbar or this Florence guy.
But surprisingly, the Florence guy was a storyteller and Akbar is just a listener – in most cases in our place.
The highlight of the novel is the wild imagination of Salman Rushdie. The wonderful imaginations start with the explanations about Jodha as Akbar’s imaginary queen and the people’s inability to speak the truth that Jodha is nothing but just an imagination. How people were forced to accept the queen is real and she always there in the palace.
Then the details of memory palace – a person used as memory device is just you never would have imagined it. I am not sure whether there were memory palaces built-in human mind in reality or not. But to have a thought and explain how we can do it is remarkable.
The descriptions of strange rules that were in effect during Moghul monarchy were amusing. For example, the people should not make any noise when Akbar in town as the noise may disturb his sleep.
But the novel doesn’t portrait Akbar as some cruel king. It portrays he is cruel in many cases because he has no other options. And it says that he always wanted to have the differences between the rulers and the ruling should be minimal. Whether how much it is true, but it is nice to know that some king in a monarchy wants this to happen when in democracy itself the one in power wants to show they are superior.
This novel is strictly for adults. There were lots of details about the sexual exploitations of Qara Koz with her various partners in her life time. Also the details of sexual life of the prince Salim and the details of how slave girls used in the preparation of kings and princes are strictly for adults.
Salman Rushdie listed hundreds of books – over six pages – in the bibliography. Looks like most of the historical references are true in the novel.
The book, Enchantress of Florence, is completely readable and enjoyable. It is perfect blend of fantasy and history. If you want some wild imaginations to overwhelm you, read it.
My rating for this book is ★★★★☆