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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Enchantress of Florence

Salman Rushdie

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase The Enchantress of Florence

Title: The Enchantress of Florence
Author: Salman Rushdie
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008
Length: 384 pages
Availability: The Enchantress of Florence - US
The Enchantress of Florence - UK
The Enchantress of Florence - Canada
The Enchantress of Florence - India
L'Enchanteresse de Florence - France
Die bezaubernde Florentinerin - Deutschland
L'incantatrice di Firenze - Italia
La encantadora de Florencia - España

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Haven't gotten a copy yet

Chances that we will review it:

Will probably feel obligated to

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Australian . 29/3/2008 Stella Clarke
The Economist B- 27/3/2008 .
Entertainment Weekly A- 23/5/2008 Troy Patterson
Financial Times . 5/4/2008 John Sutherland
The Guardian A 29/3/2008 Ursula K. Le Guin
The Independent . 25/4/2008 Aamer Hussein
Independent on Sunday . 13/4/2008 Olivia Cole
London Rev. of Books . 8/5/2008 Colin Burrow
The LA Times C- 1/6/2008 Amy Wilentz
The Nation . 15/9/2008 William Deresiewicz
NZZ . 28/2/2009 Angela Schader
New Humanist . 3-4/2008 Shirley Dent
New Statesman A 24/4/2008 Salil Tripathi
The NY Rev. of Books . 12/6/2008 Joyce Carol Oates
The NY Sun . 28/5/2008 Marco Roth
The NY Times D 3/6/2008 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. . 8/6/2008 David Gates
The Observer . 20/4/2008 Tim Adams
Outlook India . 28/4/2008 Khushwant Singh
San Francisco Chronicle . 1/6/2008 Joan Frank
The Spectator . 8/4/2008 Simon Baker
Sunday Times D- 30/3/2008 Peter Kemp
Sydney Morning Herald . 11/4/2008 Andrew Reimer
The Telegraph . 29/3/2008 Stephen Abell
The Telegraph . 4/4/2008 Jerry Brotton
The Times . 11/4/2008 Helen Dunmore
TLS . 4/4/2008 Ruth Morse
USA Today D 4/6/2008 Deirdre Donahue
The Washington Post . 25/5/2008 Michael Dirda

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus, very differing opinions

  From the Reviews:
  • "There are other powerful enchantments in this novel. Renaissance Florence and Mogul India are brought noisily, nastily and splendidly back to life. Rushdie has irreverent fun with figures such as Botticelli, his muse for the Primavera, and Machiavelli, who feature in the back story. The two cultures create an opportunity for exhilarating switches of perspective. (...) This book is unusually concupiscent, even for Rushdie. Overexcited, perhaps, by the Kama Sutra, which he cites as a source, Rushdie goes to town with scenes of harem life and brothels. This novel is as much a celebration of sex, of every kind and degree of expertise, as it is of the potency of tale-telling." - Stella Clarke, The Australian

  • "Paragraph by paragraph, this is a carefully wrought and often exquisite book, but the overall effect is as rich and stultifying as a month-long diet of foie gras." - The Economist

  • "Rushdie's brightest ideas have always concerned belonging, travel, and exile, and here he shapes them into a shimmering tale about the deep sweetness of home." - Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly

  • "What on earth is Salman Rushdie’s ninth novel about ? It’s not a question that reviewers, armed with the faux omniscience that accompanies an early proof copy, are supposed to ask. But bewilderment will be the initial response of most readers. (...) It’s about the clash of civilisations. What point is it making ? That there is as much unclash as clash. The confluences in this novel make the point artistically. And, of course, it is Rushdie’s art -- specifically his writing -- which makes, or breaks this novel. I go for make. (...) There is more magic than realism in this latest novel. But it is, I think, one of his best. If The Enchantress of Florence doesn’t win this year’s Man Booker I’ll curry my proof copy and eat it." - John Sutherland, Financial Times

  • "This brilliant, fascinating, generous novel swarms with gorgeous young women both historical and imagined, beautiful queens and irresistible enchantresses, along with some whores and a few quarrelsome old wives -- all stock figures, females perceived solely in relation to the male. Women are never treated unkindly by the author, but they have no autonomous being. (...) But in the end, of course, it is the hand of the master artist, past all explanation, that gives this book its glamour and power, its humour and shock, its verve, its glory. It is a wonderful tale, full of follies and enchantments. East meets west with a clash of cymbals and a burst of fireworks." - Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian

  • "Rushdie holds an ongoing dialogue with other writers (.....) There's a resounding echo of the Indo-Persian storytelling tradition, with its lush images, forked progressions and digressions, its obliteration of boundaries between magic and reality." - Aamer Hussein, The Independent

  • "While some of this is fun, the prose can seem at times lacklustre, with Rushdie determined to stick to a "once upon a time" kind of colourful kitsch. There's a fine line, however, between deadpan and deadening, and it takes only a moment of real Rushdie poetry (...) or the unnerving description of the Angel of Death (...) to make you feel hard done by." - Olivia Cole, Independent on Sunday

  • "The magical realism in Enchantress is all artifice and diversion. Its decorative beauty disguises truth, or avoids it, and keeps the reader pointlessly mystified. No style should be a substitute for a story. Plot is the hard work of novel-writing. Rather than dealing with difficult reality, which is the writer's perhaps unpleasant but necessary duty, Rushdie forces Qara Köz from the Mughal Empire into Florence to make a few dubious points, distracting readers from the logistical plot problems in the book's flabby middle. In magical realism as it is practiced by Rushdie, timelines are as naught. Simultaneity is all. This can make the work seem less like great literature and, at moments, more like automatic scribbling." - Amy Wilentz, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Barring his children's book, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie's new novel, The Enchantress of Florence, may be the purest expression yet of his fabulating impulse. (...) The result, if relatively slight, is probably Rushdie's most coherent and readable novel." - William Deresiewicz, The Nation

  • "Immerhin präsentiert sich Die bezaubernde Florentinerin auf der Handlungsebene weniger chaotisch als die Werke, welche -- hoffentlich -- die Talsohle von Rushdies literarischer Karriere markierten; inhaltlich aber hat der Autor den goldenen See, den Akbar der Grosse auch ihm offeriert hätte, nicht bis zum Letzten ausgeschöpft. Das bedauert man gerade insofern, als diese Substanz im Roman spürbar ist und stellenweise auch überzeugend präsentiert wird." - Angela Schader, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Two things struck me as I read The Enchantress of Florence: humanism is a journey that we haven’t come to the end of yet and Salman Rushdie is one hell of a storyteller to have on that journey." - Shirley Dent, New Humanist

  • "The Enchantress of Florence is a luxuriant triumph. (...) This is Rushdie's ongoing, illuminating conversation with readers about our world and our place in it. The other ongoing conversation is about our being astride several cultures, often in different time periods, and at home nowhere." - Salil Tripathi, New Statesman

  • "Though The Enchantress of Florence includes a densely printed five-page bibliography of historical books and articles and is being described as a "historical" novel, readers in expectation of a conventional "historical novel" should be forewarned: this is "history" jubilantly mixed with postmodernist magic realism. The veteran performer-author is too playful and too much the exuberant stylist to incorporate much of deadpan "reality" into his ever-shifting, ever-teasing narrative of the power of enchantment of cultural opposites: "We are their dream . . . and they are ours." " - Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

  • "The Enchantress of Florence is a Harry Potter-ish restoration project of great intelligence and remarkable egoism, both of which are characteristic of its author. (...) (I)t's a rhapsody woven from earlier works, a pastiche, a considerate pillaging of the past. Not so much plotted as patterned in concentric circles of repeating motifs, the novel embroiders on the usual Rushdian themes -- chiefly the costs and benefits of uprooting oneself for the sake of a chance to improve one's position. Like all romances for grown-up people, The Enchantress is intended as an allegory." - Marco Roth, The New York Sun

  • "Salman Rushdie’s new novel, The Enchantress of Florence, reads less like a novel by the author of such magical works as Midnight’s Children and The Moor’s Last Sigh than a weary, predictable parody of something by John Barth. (..) The Enchantress of Florence, in contrast, feels static and enervated, as though it had been mechanically assembled from a recipe that included lots of research (about Medici Florence and the Mughal empire), a rote sprinkling of fantasy, and some perfunctory and strained allusions to some greater politico-religious issues" - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "This book-long tease makes it hard to summarize the plot without ruining the intended effect -- and I’m not sure I followed all its meanderings anyway. (...) The Enchantress of Florence is so pious -- especially in its impiety -- so pleased with itself and so besotted with the sound of its own voice that even the tritest fancies get a free pass." - David Gates, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In among this languid glitter, the book does not develop arguments as such; characters are rather occasionally prone to a rush of epigram and aphorism. The whole, though, is the latest instalment in Rushdie's lifelong manifesto for the transformative power of narrative, for the storyteller as the conductor of all the world's chaos. (In this sense, once again, Rushdie emerges as the hero of his own fiction, the man who can shape and shift like no other.)" - Tim Adams, The Observer

  • "It is grossly overwritten with a plethora of words in different languages, a veritable verbal diarrhoea meaning nothing. It seems like the fate that befell Fatehpur Sikri. The lakes that once surrounded the Mughal capital and gave it sustenance dried up and the city had to be abandoned to the wilderness of jackals and owls. Salman Rushdie’s inkwell has dried up; it is time he bought a new ballpoint pen." - Khushwant Singh, Outlook India

  • "As a storyteller, Rushdie's a workman's workman. His prose is muscular and flexible, his tone exuberant, wry and pitiless -- a sort of meta-fablespeak (.....) What's missing may be unfair to seek in this brand of saga: any glimmer in the teller of tenderness toward his tale, of emotional risk." - Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Rushdie’s latest work is convincing and funny, less manic in its prose than earlier novels but still ambitiously written, and with a seriousness beneath its silliness. As with most fairy-tales, it keeps very little of the main plot hidden, but if we can generally see where we are heading when we read it, the view here, at least, is a beautiful one." - Simon Baker, The Spectator

  • "(B)y a long chalk, the worst thing he has ever written. (...) (F)antasy deserves better than to be used as a safe-conduct pass for melodramatic cliché, arbitrary-seeming lurches of event, and reams of penny-dreadful prose. There are lines that churners-out of blood-and-thunder grand guignol would blush to acknowledge (.....) Only rarely does Rushdie find scope for the quick, cartoonish vividnesses of description that are his forte. When he does, the novel's flaccid artificiality instantly flickers into life." - Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

  • "The trouble is, I think, that Rushdie does not understand that world in the same instinctive and wonderfully imaginative way that he understands Akbar's realm -- or at least he does not respond to European culture (in the broadest sense of the term) as fully as he responds to the cultures of the Indian subcontinent. This is a harsh thing to say, I realise. From the evidence of this novel it seems, nevertheless, to be true. (...) I found parts of The Enchantress Of Florence exhilarating; other sections provoked tedium and irritation. Perhaps, in the long run, Rushdie is a bit too clever for his own good." - Andrew Reimer, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Such an undermining attitude could be tiresome, but what Rushdie achieves so marvellously is to ensure that the evocation of the ephemeral retains the force of the tangible; this is the "magical task of metamorphosis" that he believes to be central to the act of writing. (...) The prose is fast, simple and prioritises facility over felicity. (...) The Enchantress of Florence is, in the best sense of the word, childish fiction for adults: a welcome splash of bright colour; Rushdie, a virtuoso in poster-paint." - Stephen Abell, The Telegraph

  • "Rushdie is better recreating the lost imperial world of India than Renaissance Florence, but the novel is a moving testament to what historians of the period have understood for some time now: the spirit of the Renaissance was not confined to Italy, and the Mughal, Ottoman and Persian courts were also part of the cultural and philosophical conversation of the time. (...) The Enchantress of Florence is vintage Rushdie, and reminds us, in case we may have forgotten, that he can tell a story across East and West better than anyone else in the language." - Jerry Brotton, The Telegraph

  • "For all its proliferating surface dazzle, this is a book with few illusions. One after another the stories drop like masks. The solitude, harshness and illogicality of human life are accepted almost casually, without surprise." - Helen Dunmore, The Times

  • "The Enchantress of Florence is a bravura entertainment, but one which is finally disappointing. In its attempt to encompass everything, it develops very little. Clichés are what they are because we come back to them without end, and it is -- perhaps -- brave and beautiful to immolate one’s legendary lovers. But it amounts to not much more than itself, to evocations of feelings one can conjure up again in time for the next night’s performance." - Ruth Morse, Times Literary Supplement

  • "The best thing about Salman Rushdie's tiresome and confusing new novel The Enchantress of Florence is its lovely gold and orange cover. At the bookstore, admire the cover, then move on. (...) Set in both Asia and Italy, the book is neither historical fiction nor effective fantasy. Instead, it's an ornately written drone-fest designed to show off Rushdie's undeniable stylistic brilliance." - Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

  • "The Enchantress of Florence is altogether ramshackle as a novel -- oddly structured, blithely mixing history and legend and distinctly minor compared to such masterworks as The Moor's Last Sigh and Midnight's Children -- and it is really not a novel at all. It is a romance, and only a dry-hearted critic would dwell on the flaws in so delightful an homage to Renaissance magic and wonder." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The Enchantress of Florence: Reviews: Salman Rushdie: Other books by Salman Rushdie under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Indian literature
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       Bombay-born Ahmed Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) went to school at Rugby and then Cambridge. He worked in advertising before turning to writing full time. Winner of the Booker Prize (for Midnight's Children), he has written a number of international bestsellers and several works of non-fiction. In 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini imposed a fatwa, sentencing Rushdie to death for alleged blasphemy.

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