The Enchantress of Florence

( 54 )

Overview

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a ...

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Overview

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. Profoundly moving and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A romance of beauty and power from Italy to India . . . so delightful an homage to Renaissance magic and wonder.”
–Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“This is ‘history’ jubilantly mixed with postmodernist magic realism.”
–Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

“A baroque whirlwind of a narrative . . . [Rushdie helps] us escape from the present into a dreamlike past that ultimately makes us more aware of the dangers and illusions of our everyday lives.”
–Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune

“Brilliant . . . Rushdie’s sumptuous mixture of history and fable is magnificent.”
–Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian (London)

“For Rushdie, as for the artists he writes about, the pen is a magician’s wand. . . . One of his best [novels].”
–John Sutherland, Financial Times

“[A] prodigious fever dream of a book.”
–Lisa Shea, Elle

“Beyond its magical razzle-dazzle lays a work of steely contemporary resonance, rich in slyly metafictional allusions.”
–Hephzibah Anderson, Bloomberg News

Bloomberg
Blending ornate imagery with knowing, saber-swift wit to conjure up cunning escapes, dashing victories and legendary seductions…beyond its magical razzle-dazzle lays a work of steely contemporary relevance.
Publishers Weekly

Listeners who can make sense out of this clear but unengaging readingshould win an award. Firdous Bamji employs the same technique throughout (pushing out chosen words in each phrase for emphasis), and the sentences begin to sound alike and the listening mind begins to wanders. It's hard to distinguish or care about the many characters, and Bamji doesn't help determine time or place as the book hops around in different eras and locations with abandon. But poor Bamji had a terrible task before him: the muddle of history, mystery, fact, fiction and fairytale in Rushdie's new novel would confound any narrator. A Random House hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 24). (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Financial Times
For Rushdie, the pen is a magician’s wand…If The Enchantress of Florence doesn’t win this year’s Man Booker I’ll curry my proof copy and eat it.
—John Sutherland
The Guardian
This brilliant, fascinating, generous novel swarms with gorgeous young women both historical and imagined, beautiful queens and irresistible enchantresses... ...[a] sumptuous, impetuous mixture of history with fable. 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. We English-speakers have our own Ariosto now, our Tasso, stolen out of India. Aren't we the lucky ones?
—Ursula K Le Guin
Elle
[A] prodigious fever dream of a book…A beguiling, incandescent tale of travel, treachery, and transformation set in the Renaissance Florence of Machiavelli and the Medicis and in India's Mughal Empire....While Mogor's risky quest and fate are central...Rushdie ushers in a caravan of low, laughable characters in the service of his weighty and witty observations on religion, politics, sex, war, art, philosophy, and science in an East-West world of white mischief and black magic, of enigmatic nightmares and inscrutable dreams.
The Telegraph
[A] splendid farrago...An all-dancing, colourful performance leaping up from the pages.
—Stephen Abell
India Today
Rushdie, like an inspired fabulist, achieves the impossible by turning the tale of two cities into a narrative of perpetual reinvention. An exuberant celebration of storytelling…a story that enchants the reader and enriches the art of the novel.
The Daily Mail
An exuberant mix of fantasy and history.
Booklist
Entertainment of the highest literary order. (Starred, boxed review)
Library Journal

Much like Rushdie himself, the mysterious yellow-haired stranger we meet in the opening pages of this magical and haunting new novel is a teller of tales, "driven out of his door by stories of wonder." This young man, straddling the worlds of 16th-century Florence and Mughal India much as he stands astride a bullock cart and enters the emperor's domain in Sikri, is driven to this new land with a story that can either make him his fortune or cost him his life. Appearing before the Emperor Akbar, the young man presents himself as an emissary of Queen Elizabeth I. When Akbar challenges his identity, the storyteller begins to weave the dangerous tale of Qara Köz, the enchantress of Florence, whom he claims is his mother. Parading through this tale of two worlds are Niccolò Machiavelli and Amerigo Vespucci's cousin, Ago. Köz's power, like the power of many beautiful women in Rushdie's novels, is often realized through her relationships with the men in her life, so her story often becomes one-dimensional. Nevertheless, Rushdie's lushly evocative creation of the mysteries and intrigues of a medieval world and his enchanting and seductive stories captivate and transport us in ways reminiscent of his early novels like Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses. Highly recommended.
—Henry Carrigan

Kirkus Reviews
Readers who succumb to the spell of Rushdie's convoluted, cross-continental fable may find it enchanting; those with less patience could consider it interminable. This is a very different sort of novel for Rushdie (Shalimar the Clown, 2005, etc.), partly based in Renaissance Italy and intensely researched (there are pages of entries listed in its bibliography), though themes of East and West, love and betrayal, religion and unbelief, sex and sex, are familiar from previous work. It's plain that the author worked hard on this deliriously ambitious book, and so must the reader. Despite the title, there is more than one enchantress of Florence, and other key characters have multiple names and perhaps identities as well. Some characters might even be imaginary. The plot commences with the arrival of a blonde-haired vagabond who has traveled from his native Florence to deliver a message from the Queen of England to "the emperor Abdul-Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad . . . known since his childhood as Akbar, meaning ‘the great,' and latterly, in spite of the tautology of it, as Akbar the Great, the great great one, great in his greatness, doubly great, so great that the repetition in his title was not only appropriate but necessary in order to express the gloriousness of his glory." And so on. The man from the Christian West and the emperor of the Muslim East develop a strong bond, mainly through the stories spun by the former (in which he assumes multiple names and identities) to the latter. Yet at one point, even Akbar issues "[a] curse on all storytellers," telling his visitor "You're taking too long. . .You can't draw this out forever..." Machiavelli and Medicis make their appearances, as the plotshifts to the impossibly beautiful seductress of the title, who also finds her way from Italy to the emperor, and who ultimately gives clues to her identity by explaining, "The Mirror's daughter was the mirror of her mother and of the woman whose mirror the Mirror had been."Rapturously poetic in places, very funny in others, yet the novel ultimately challenges both patience and comprehension.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679640516
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 280,903
  • Product dimensions: 8.02 (w) x 5.26 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is the author of nine previous novels: Grimus; Midnight’s Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981 and, in 1993, was judged to be the “Booker of Bookers,” the best novel to have won that prize in its first twenty-five years); Shame (winner of the French Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (winner of the Writers Guild Award); The Moor’s Last Sigh (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); The Ground Beneath Her Feet (winner of the Eurasian section of the Commonwealth Prize); Fury (a New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year). He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and three works of nonfiction– Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and The Wizard of Oz. He is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.

Biography

Born in Mumbai, India, and educated in the U.K., multi-award-winning novelist Salman Rushdie is considered one of the most important and influential writers of contemporary English-language fiction.

Rushdie freelanced for two London advertising firms before turning to a full-time writing career. He made his literary debut in 1975 with Grimus, a sci-fi fantasy that made a very small splash in publishing circles. However, he hit the jackpot with his second novel, Midnight's Children, an ambitious allegory that parallels the turbulent history of India before and after partition. Widely considered Rushdie's magnum opus, Midnight's Children was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981. (Twelve years later, a panel of judges named it the best overall novel to have won the Booker Prize since the award's inception in 1975; and in 2005, Time included it on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923.)

Undoubtedly, though, the book that put Rushdie squarely on the cultural radar screen was The Satanic Verses. Published in 1988 and partially inspired by the life of the prophet Muhammad, this erudite study of good and evil won the Whitbread Book Award, but achieved far more notoriety when Muslim fundamentalists condemned it for its blasphemous portrayal of Islam. The book was banned in many Muslim countries, a fatwa was issued by the Iranian Ayatollah, and a multimillion dollar bounty was placed on Rushdie's head. The novelist spent much of the 1990s in hiding, under the protection of the British government. (In 1998, Iran officially lifted the fatwa, but threats against Rushdie's life still reverberate throughout the Muslim world.)

Even without the controversy inspired by The Satanic Verses, Rushdie's literary fame would be assured. His novels comprise a unique body of work that draws from fantasy, mythology, religion, and magic realism, blending them all with staggering imagination and comic brilliance. He has created his own idiom, pushing the boundaries of language with dazzling wordplay and a widely admired "chutnification" of history. His books have won most major awards in Europe and the U.K. and have garnered praise from critics around the world. Britain's Financial Times called him "Our most exhilaratingly inventive prose stylist." Time magazine raved, "No novelist currently writing in English does so with more energy, intelligence and allusiveness than Rushdie." And the writer Christopher Hitchens lamented in the Progressive that were it not for the death threats against him, Rushdie would surely be a Nobel laureate by now.

In addition to his bestselling novels, Rushdie has also produced essays, criticism, and a book of children's fiction. In 2007, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. The citation reads: "Ahmed Salman Rushdie -- author, for services to literature."

Good To Know

Rushdie was short-listed for The Literary Review's Bad Sex Award in 1995 for The Moor's Last Sigh, which included such verses as "For ever they sweated pepper ‘n' spices sweat."

Rushdie participated in a two-day, U.S. State Department conference entitled "Why Do They Hate Us?" for 50 diplomats in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.

Rushdie's first novel was a literate sci-fi fantasy entitled Grimus. Although it made only a very small splash in publishing circles, the book was deemed outstanding enough to be selected by a panel of distinguished writers (including Brian Aldiss, Kingsley Amis, and Arthur C. Clarke) as the best science fiction novel of 1975. However, at the last minute, his publishers withdrew the book from consideration, fearing that, if he won, Rushdie would never be able to shake the label of "genre writer."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Ahmed Salman Rushdie
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 19, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bombay, Maharashtra, India
    1. Education:
      M.A. in History, King's College, University of Cambridge

Read an Excerpt

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Chapter 1
In the day’s last light the glowing lake

In the day’s last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold. A traveler coming this way at sunset –this traveler, coming this way, now, along the lakeshore road–might believe himself to be approaching the throne of a monarch so fabulously wealthy that he could allow a portion of his treasure to be poured into a giant hollow in the earth to dazzle and awe his guests. And as big as the lake of gold was, it must be only a drop drawn from the sea of the larger fortune–the traveler’s imagination could not begin to grasp the size of that mother-ocean! Nor were there guards at the golden water’s edge; was the king so generous, then, that he allowed all his subjects, and perhaps even strangers and visitors like the traveler himself, without hindrance to draw up liquid bounty from the lake? That would indeed be a prince among men, a veritable Prester John, whose lost kingdom of song and fable contained impossible wonders. Perhaps (the traveler surmised) the fountain of eternal youth lay within the city walls–perhaps even the legendary doorway to Paradise on Earth was somewhere close at hand? But then the sun fell below the horizon, the gold sank beneath the water’s surface, and was lost. Mermaids and serpents would guard it until the return of daylight. Until then, water itself would be the only treasure on offer, a gift the thirsty traveler gratefully accepted.

The stranger rode in a bullock-cart, but instead of being seated on the rough cushions therein he stood up like a god, holding on to the rail of the cart’s latticework wooden frame with one insouciant hand. A bullock-cart ride was far from smooth, the two-wheeled cart tossing and jerking to the rhythm of the animal’s hoofs, and subject, too, to the vagaries of the highway beneath its wheels. A standing man might easily fall and break his neck. Nevertheless the traveler stood, looking careless and content. The driver had long ago given up shouting at him, at first taking the foreigner for a fool–if he wanted to die on the road, let him do so, for no man in this country would be sorry! Quickly, however, the driver’s scorn had given way to a grudging admiration. The man might indeed be foolish, one could go so far as to say that he had a fool’s overly pretty face and wore a fool’s unsuitable clothes–a coat of colored leather lozenges, in such heat!–but his balance was immaculate, to be wondered at. The bullock plodded forward, the cart’s wheels hit potholes and rocks, yet the standing man barely swayed, and managed, somehow, to be graceful. A graceful fool, the driver thought, or perhaps no fool at all. Perhaps someone to be reckoned with. If he had a fault, it was that of ostentation, of seeking to be not only himself but a performance of himself as well, and, the driver thought, around here everybody is a little bit that way too, so maybe this man is not so foreign to us after all. When the passenger mentioned his thirst the driver found himself going to the water’s edge to fetch the fellow a drink in a cup made of a hollowed and varnished gourd, and holding it up for the stranger to take, for all the world as if he were an aristocrat worthy of service.

"You just stand there like a grandee and I jump and scurry at your bidding," the driver said, frowning. "I don’t know why I’m treating you so well. Who gave you the right to command me? What are you, anyway? Not a nobleman, that’s for sure, or you wouldn’t be in this cart. And yet you have airs about you. So you’re probably some kind of a rogue." The other drank deeply from the gourd. The water ran down from the edges of his mouth and hung on his shaven chin like a liquid beard. At length he handed back the empty gourd, gave a sigh of satisfaction, and wiped the beard away. "What am I?" he said, as if speaking to himself, but using the driver’s own language. "I’m a man with a secret, that’s what–a secret which only the emperor’s ears may hear." The driver felt reassured: the fellow was a fool after all. There was no need to treat him with respect. "Keep your secret," he said. "Secrets are for children, and spies." The stranger got down from the cart outside the caravanserai, where all journeys ended and began. He was surprisingly tall and carried a carpetbag. "And for sorcerers," he told the driver of the bullock-cart. "And for lovers too. And kings."

In the caravanserai all was bustle and hum. Animals were cared for, horses, camels, bullocks, asses, goats, while other, untamable animals ran wild: screechy monkeys, dogs that were no man’s pets. Shrieking parrots exploded like green fireworks in the sky. Blacksmiths were at work, and carpenters, and in chandleries on all four sides of the enormous square men planned their journeys, stocking up on groceries, candles, oil, soap, and ropes. Turbaned coolies in red shirts and dhotis ran ceaselessly hither and yon with bundles of improbable size and weight upon their heads. There was, in general, much loading and unloading of goods. Beds for the night were to be cheaply had here, wood-frame rope beds covered with spiky horsehair mattresses, standing in military ranks upon the roofs of the single-story buildings surrounding the enormous courtyard of the caravanserai, beds where a man might lie and look up at the heavens and imagine himself divine. Beyond, to the west, lay the murmuring camps of the emperor’s regiments, lately returned from the wars. The army was not permitted to enter the zone of the palaces but had to stay here at the foot of the royal hill. An unemployed army, recently home from battle, was to be treated with caution. The stranger thought of ancient Rome. An emperor trusted no soldiers except his praetorian guard. The traveler knew that the question of trust was one he would have to answer convincingly. If he did not he would quickly die.

Not far from the caravanserai, a tower studded with elephant tusks marked the way to the palace gate. All elephants belonged to the emperor, and by spiking a tower with their teeth he was demonstrating his power. Beware! the tower said. You are entering the realm of the Elephant King, a sovereign so rich in pachyderms that he can waste the gnashers of a thousand of the beasts just to decorate me. In the tower’s display of might the traveler recognized the same quality of flamboyance that burned upon his own forehead like a flame, or a mark of the Devil; but the maker of the tower had transformed into strength that quality which, in the traveler, was often seen as a weakness. Is power the only justification for an extrovert personality? the traveler asked himself, and could not answer, but found himself hoping that beauty might be another such excuse, for he was certainly beautiful, and knew that his looks had a power of their own.

Beyond the tower of the teeth stood a great well and above it a mass of incomprehensibly complex waterworks machinery that served the many-cupolaed palace on the hill. Without water we are nothing, the traveler thought. Even an emperor, denied water, would swiftly turn to dust. Water is the real monarch and we are all its slaves. Once at home in Florence he had met a man who could make water disappear. The conjuror filled a jug to the brim, muttered magic words, turned the jug over and, instead of liquid, fabric spilled forth, a torrent of colored silken scarves. It was a trick, of course, and before that day was done he, the traveler, had coaxed the fellow’s secret out of him, and had hidden it among his own mysteries. He was a man of many secrets, but only one was fit for a king.

The road to the city wall rose quickly up the hillside and as he rose with it he saw the size of the place at which he had arrived. Plainly it was one of the grand cities of the world, larger, it seemed to his eye, than Florence or Venice or Rome, larger than any town the traveler had ever seen. He had visited London once; it too was a lesser metropolis than this. As the light failed the city seemed to grow. Dense neighborhoods huddled outside the walls, muezzins called from their minarets, and in the distance he could see the lights of large estates. Fires began to burn in the twilight, like warnings. From the black bowl of the sky came the answering fires of the stars. As if the earth and the heavens were armies preparing for battle, he thought. As if their encampments lie quiet at night and await the war of the day to come. And in all these warrens of streets and in all those houses of the mighty, beyond, on the plains, there was not one man who had heard his name, not one who would readily believe the tale he had to tell. Yet he had to tell it. He had crossed the world to do so, and he would.

He walked with long strides and attracted many curious glances, on account of his yellow hair as well as his height, his long and admittedly dirty yellow hair flowing down around his face like the golden water of the lake. The path sloped upward past the tower of the teeth toward a stone gate upon which two elephants in bas- relief stood facing each other. Through this gate, which was open, came the noises of human beings at play, eating, drinking, carousing. There were soldiers on duty at the Hatyapul gate but their stances were relaxed. The real barriers lay ahead. This was a public place, a place for meetings, purchases, and pleasure. Men hurried past the traveler, driven by hungers and thirsts. On both sides of the flagstoned road between the outer gate and the inner were hostelries, saloons, food stalls, and hawkers of all kinds. Here was the eternal business of buying and being bought. Cloths, utensils, baubles, weapons, rum. The main market lay beyond the city’s lesser, southern gate. City dwellers shopped there and avoided this place, which was for ignorant newcomers who did not know the real price of things. This was the swindlers’ market, the thieves’ market, raucous, overpriced, contemptible. But tired travelers, not knowing the plan of the city, and reluctant, in any case, to walk all the way around the outer walls to the larger, fairer bazaar, had little option but to deal with the merchants by the elephant gate. Their needs were urgent and simple.

Live chickens, noisy with fear, hung upside down, fluttering, their feet tied together, awaiting the pot. For vegetarians there were other, more silent cook-pots; vegetables did not scream. And were those women’s voices the traveler could hear on the wind, ululating, teasing, enticing, laughing at unseen men? Were those women he scented upon the evening breeze? It was too late to go looking for the emperor tonight, in any case. The traveler had money in his pocket and had made a long, roundabout journey. This way was his way: to move toward his goal indirectly, with many detours and divagations. Since landing at Surat he had traveled by way of Burhanpur, Handia, Sironj, Narwar, Gwalior, and Dholpur to Agra, and from Agra to this, the new capital. Now he wanted the most comfortable bed that could be had, and a woman, preferably one without a mustache, and finally a quantity of the oblivion, the escape from self, that can never be found in a woman’s arms but only in good strong drink.

Later, when his desires had been satisfied, he slept in an odorous whorehouse, snoring lustily next to an insomniac tart, and dreamed. He could dream in seven languages: Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Russian, English, and Portuguese. He had picked up languages the way most sailors picked up diseases; languages were his gonorrhea, his syphilis, his scurvy, his ague, his plague. As soon as he fell asleep half the world started babbling in his brain, telling wondrous travelers’ tales. In this half-discovered world every day brought news of fresh enchantments. The visionary, revelatory dream-poetry of the quotidian had not yet been crushed by blinkered, prosy fact. Himself a teller of tales, he had been driven out of his door by stories of wonder, and by one in particular, a story which could make his fortune or else cost him his life.
Excerpted from The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie Copyright © 2008 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    I picked up this book on whim after I saw Rushdie on Colbert Report plugging The Enchantress of Florence. Im really glad I did because the book impressed me from start to finish. Vivid description blends history (which as the other reviewer said is heavily researched with an abridged and yet still extensive bibliography) with fable-- though the plot, and characters, even historical ones, are uniquely imagined with distinct personalities that are often bawdy, fun, and intelligent. Never read anything else by Rushdie before but if its even remotely like this I am sure that it must be great! Highly recommended for those interested in history, fairytales, and language. I read this in only a few sittings as its very difficult to put down!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    I was shocked when I heard/read a synopsis after reading this bo

    I was shocked when I heard/read a synopsis after reading this book that, "The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world." However, after dwelling on it, I realized the difficulty I have with this statement is that the bulk of the story is told in a male voice and thus I question how can anyone say that the book is purely about a woman attempting to command her destiny when it isn't even in her own voice.

    While the original synopsis is correct as far as it goes ... I think a better synopsis is that it is a story from a man's perspective about a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man's world. Which lead me to the thought that the men in this book (and maybe the author himself) are subconsciously fearful of empowered women and thus, the men in this book must explain their loss of control/power over this woman by describing her as an enchantress./seductress who sucked the life/power out of each of the men she came in contact with in this book. And in the end - it is all about each man realizing that he does not have control over all.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    Prodigious Fiction

    As a male, I found this book exceptionally enjoyable. As presented for our local book club to read within 3 weeks, I read it in a matter of hours over a few days. The breadth of material presented, including the characters & development, the scenery, and the adventures all culminated to form a great story ¿ fiction AND not. A fellow book friend and I talked about this one, and we both believe that there are some underlying current power struggles, relating to personal, religious & political gains, that Rushdie is communicating. We will be chewing on it for awhile¿ I highly recommend this book, if anything for escapism.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2008

    Exceptional

    Rushdie¿s Enchantress of Florence is haunting and exquisite. Exceptional prose, delightfully readable. The story focuses on the fading boundary between fantasy and reality¿women from dreams become solid, men retreat into their paintings. Magic permeates the story as the novel challenges assumptions about what defines truth and even substance¿and suggests that if one cannot determine one¿s destiny, there is a finite ability to create one¿s reality. Imaginative and compelling.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    Rushdie is a genius!

    I have never done a review before, but honestly, Rushdie is a master, a literary genius. We read this for a book club I am in and we could have talked about it for hours -- all the layers of meaning, how the tale is told with such originality, all the ways it speaks to humanity!

    We are all now reading another book by him and I can't wait to talk about that one! Enjoy!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2008

    a book club member

    The author takes the current literary devices of '1' using different voices to tell his story and '2' going back and forth through time to such an extreme that they become thoroughly confusing and very irritating. I plowed through the book, hoping with each chapter that the next would be better, but it wasn't! None of the characters are fully drawn, and none are sympathetic or the least bit interesting.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Enchantress of Florence is a novel worthy of Rushdie. That s

    The Enchantress of Florence is a novel worthy of Rushdie. That sounds redundant, but is probably the highest praise I could give a novel. This is novel of Mughal India and Renaissance Italy, of love and loss, betrayal and redemption. But more than anything this is a novel about the nature of power. With Akbar the Great and Niccolo Machiavelli in starring roles we explore the power of princes, and the right to rule. As we follow the life of Machiavelli from bright young thinker to bitter old man Rushdie draws us a historical picture of the events which likely influenced his brutal ideas on power. Meanwhile we are given a glimpse of the inner workings of Akbar the Great, dreamer and poet, who seems philosophically to be the antithesis of Machiavelli's "Prince"; a man who takes pride in his illustrious ancestry, while abhorring the bloody history of his illustrious ancestors. A man who will not hesitate to destroy those who challenge his power, yet mourns the need to do so. But in the end is philosophy enough? Is not a tyrant a tyrant, regardless of his ideology? While Akbar struggles with these questions, he (and we) are told the story of his great-aunt, the titular Enchantress, who has been erased from history for daring to follow her own path, for trying to exercise her own agency, trying to create her own power. The Enchantress of Florence is a wonderful novel (in every sense), and while it may not be quite so profound as some of Rushdie's other works, the language here really shines and the pure storytelling is unsurpassed. I don't recommend it as a starting point for Rushdie newbies, go with Midnight's Children or Shame, but those who are familiar with Rushdie will find everything they are looking for.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    Great

    Although the narrative could be hard to follow at times, i enjoyed the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Confusing to the point of tiring

    Rushdie's incredible prose hardly does justice to the plot. Some of the characters, as well as the storyline, had such potential - the Sultan, his favorite wife, the Princess and the Mirror...but Rushdie never truly fully explored them, and instead ran a bit roughshod over a gem-in-the-rough story as the plot jumped forward and back in time. You'll want to keep reading just to try and figure out what's going on. The end was very interesting, fitting, I think. But I finished the read disappointed and with a headache. For a book set in the lush, colorful world of the past Middle East, India, etc., see below.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    A reviewer

    his best work...impeccably researched, I a student of history, I know how well he portrays the time period. Beautiful use of mythological elements and tone. Prose is flowing and exotic. A must read!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Magnificently Multi-Layered Novel This is a magnificent novel;

    Magnificently Multi-Layered Novel This is a magnificent novel; a model
    of the perfect reading for a book group, or literature class. Rushdie
    creates and amazingly solid and well-crafted central plot, surrounded by
    parables and dreams, imbued with a deep multiplicity of meanings, that
    all flows like poetry. "Enchantress" is a more focused
    version of Umberto Eco's "The Island of the Day Before". It
    has that same dream-like quality of stories flowing into and within
    other stories, but in Rushdie's case, anchored by a more stable threaded
    plot. The novel revolves around a mysterious European traveler,
    ostensibly from Florence, who finds himself at the court of an Indian
    ruler. The Florentine (who goes by numerous names) has a secret to
    tell...a secret that will kill all but one who are exposed by it. This
    secret is the fulcrum upon which this vibrant tale is balanced. Rushdie
    delves into themes of love, poetry, one-ness, leadership, gender,
    beauty, war, and the list goes on. I'm quite sure that I was only able
    to grasp but a small fraction of the delightfully nuanced story's
    multiple tiers of meanings. English majors will have an easier time
    dissecting the stories within the stories, but all readers will enjoy
    Rushdie's easy-flowing style. The first third of the novel takes place
    in India where the stage is set for the Florentine's secret. The second
    two thirds focus on Florence where Niccolo Machiavelli plays a
    significant role in unravelling the deadly secret. Each character
    represents a different quality of being or literate theme. Each clue to
    the mystery leads to a new tale, a new parable. These lead Rushdie,
    particularly in the early India-centered scenes, to create a bright
    atmosphere of story-clouds, drifting in and out from each other,
    composing a complete and satisfactory conclusion. I found myself
    looking forward to each reading session with 'Enchantress'. Rushdie's
    approach to building the story and themes developed a very comforting
    and pleasing read. While I wouldn't consider this 'light' reading, it's
    deeply layered story and almost poetic approach make this a wonderful book.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Good story

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Sumptuous Literary Feast

    Salman Rushdie has a reputation for being one of the most significant and talented literary voices in the World and this novel clearly shows why. "The Enchantress of Florence" is set in sixteenth century, and its plot spans several generations, two continents and a few kingdoms and empires. Its elaborate plot would certainly overwhelmed any lesser writer, but Rushdie manages to confidently raise to the challenges that he sets up for himself. The historic setting of the narrative, the erudition that went into the writing of this novel, and the elaborate and unexpected plot twists in many respects remind one of the works of Umberto Eco. And yet what truly intrigues one with this novel is the persistent seduction of the high-level literary style. Rushdie manages to be baroque with his language and ideas, without being pretentious or overbearing. With him you just know that all that sophistication in expressions and style comes naturally as an outgrowth of his talent.

    The one problem that I have with the book is that all of the characters and situations seem oversexualized, even by the standards of the 21st century. The book is by no means graphic when it comes to sexual content, but there is hardly a page on which some sexual theme is not dealt with, either explicitly or explicitly. It could be in fact that the setting and the narrative of the book are in fact some grand sexual allegory, but I am not sophisticated enough to be able to discern it without spending a lot of time on this matter.

    Overall, a very good book. Interesting and elaborate, with enough twists of plot to keep one coming back to it. A good read.

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  • Posted July 7, 2011

    CONFUSED

    I finished the book yesterday and am still confused. This book was the hardest book to read that I have ever attempted, and I am not stuck on dime novels. So, why did I keep reading? Was it Rushdie? Akbar? Historically, Akbar was one of the greatest rulers of all time. The characteristics given to Rushdie in the Overview were in fact those of Akbar. One other reviewer read it through wondering why she kept reading. So, I am not alone, and I will read it again some day. Until then, I remain, considerately yours, Confused. LL

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    A mixture of history and fantasy it has historical figures, geography, and imaginaton all rolled in together.

    This was the first book I ever read by Salman Rushdie so I wasn't sure what I expected but this is more of a fairy tale than a novel. While a mixture of history and fantasy the Enchantress of Florence is bathed throughout in Mediterranean sunlight and Oriental sensuousness. Its action covers half the known world, taking you to the seacoast of Africa, the subcontinent of India, the Battlefields in the Middle East and the Italian Renaissance. Some of the historical figures throughout the novel are Niccolo Miachiavelli, the Medicis, and the Mogul Emperor Akhbar. It also swarms with gorgeous young women both historical and imagined, beautiful queens and irresistible enchantresses.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent

    This is a fabulous read and should be a 'must' for any discerning reader. Rushdie, once again, brilliantly, through a masterly combination of Eastern and Western narrative, conveys the similarities that cause each of us, no matter our past,race, religion or nationality, to justify our existence and importance through trying to impose our beliefs, experiences and world understanding on others. Rushdie writes that it is not our differences, but similarities that are most dangerous. We all create narratives to justify our importance over other and believe what we want to believe no matter how ludicrous it may seem, instead of understanding that the beauty of our journey in this life is an often misguided personal path where through mistakes and imperfection we reach a determination of our own, individual, morality and 'goodness'. Rushdie contrasts this with the dogma and ideologue and preconceptions that we are want to believe, and not question, in order to self-promote and impose our self-perceived importance over others.

    The brilliance of this novel, in my opinion, is that he shows this through an equal treatment of different religions and not focussing on the ills and fanaticism of just one.

    Perhaps Brandon Flowers of The Killers and Rushdie have been trading notes: "Are We Human or Are We Dancer?" Or perhaps are we both highly influenced by Friedrich Nietzche??

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another Stunning Novel From Rushdie

    A yellow-haired foreigner has arrived at the palace of the Eastern Emperor, Akbar. While many such strangers would be sent on their way, this man is given an audience with the emperor. He starts to tell a fabulous story, and soon, makes the incredible claim that he is actually the Emperor's uncle; son of a famous beauty who was a daughter of the court but who was captured in a war and then chose to remain with her captor when freed. Due to this refusal to return bak to court life, her name is erased from the family history, but there are still some older people who remember her or her story.

    This woman is the Enchantress of Florence, but that is just one of her many names. She is called Angelina, The Woman With Dark Eyes, The Enchantress, Qara Koz and other names. She lives in various places, always with men who will give up anything and everything to have her love. When necessary, she picks up and moves on to the next life, the next man.

    Salmon Rushdie plays with several themes here. There is the theme of each person knowing a different side of another; this theme is represented by the multiple names that each character has. There is the theme of love and what will be done to sustain love. The question of whether in each relationship there is one who loves and one who is loved is explored. Another theme explores the lives of those who travel and contrasts them with those who choose to remain in their homeplace. Rushdie repeats one phrase that ties the stories of the East and the Italian city of Florence together. The curse of the human race is not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike.

    This book is highly recommended. The language is lush, and the story moves back and forth, with myriad characters that require the reader's full attention. The characters are finely drawn and even those who have minimal parts to play are fully developed. The book leaves the reader with much to think about. For those readers who enjoy fantasy and non-linear plotlines, this book is a gift.

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  • Posted August 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    painful

    a huge dissapointment....wordy, slowpaced, confusing... Im usually a huge fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2009

    Lost in Confusion

    I will say this, I am a very, very avid read, and on all topics and complexity, from fairytales to political and religious theory, and this book was by far, the most laborious and cumbersome work ever put in front of me. Not because of language or nuance, diction, etc...because it is simply, not an easy read. Initially, the book grabs you, it is fantastical, but much of that is lost. The best way I could put how I felt about this work was that it seemed as though I was reading an attempt at sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction written by a mathematician, a complex philosopher...someone who dissects very hard theorems in order to ascertain their validity or futility. I am sad to say that Rushdie does not understand character development, nor the idea of 'less is more'..that is, tending towards a more simple, "let the idea and the characters carry the book" rather than putting in a bunch of SAT words and explaining to much of what he means instead of just letting the reader figure it out. I got so frustrated reading this book that I put it down several times...tried to get back into it, and failed again, I've made it through about 80% of the book and I can tell you, it's not worth it. If there are people out there that are thinking "you fool, read the whole thing, what about the end"...think again. Writing is an art, if you can't intrigue people and keep them captivated from the first sentence...you've failed. Period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    Excellent!

    Brilliantly written!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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