Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked.
But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden.
I chose Midnight’s Children as it’s unlike anything else I’ve read. It combines real historical events, in this case India’s transition from British colonialism to independence, with a more magical element – children with special powers. Apparently it’s considered to be ‘Magical realism’ so perhaps I should read other books in that genre. The protagonist, Saleem Sinai, is born at precisely midnight on 15 August 1947 and so at the exact moment when India became independent – his life and fate are intertwined with that of the country.
The characters are well developed and you get attached to the narrator despite his rambling, improvised style as it’s so beautifully written. I found Saleem a bit infuriating but that’s sort of the point: he’s an unreliable narrator who is easily distracted, going off on tangents and digressing to events that we know nothing about yet – which is part of what makes the story interesting – and for that reason it’s not necessarily an easy read but is definitely worth the effort.