A man and his three sons move into The Gardens, and nothing is ever the same again. The Goldens pull their neighbors into their circle, full of intrigue and namelessness and the mysteries of their past that they cannot escape. The story is moderated, and that really is the best way to describe it, by Rene, a young filmmaker and the Golden’s neighbor who is pulled into their circle, befriends the sons, and becomes inextricably tied to their fate. The story of the Goldens is one of new beginnings, hidden pasts, identity disorders, and inescapable fate. When the flames die down at the end of the novel, you’ll never believe who is left standing, what has been exposed, and what has happened to the country.
Rushdie does a great job of making this a world within the world we already know and tying in literary themes and names to make this a cultured reading experience. We never hear the true name of the Golden men, but their names, Nero, Apu, Petra, and D(Dionysus) were also formerly the Marx brothers and a plethora of other literary and historical names hints at Rushdie’s expertise on the subject and the timelessness of the story he is telling. He also ties it to the elections of 2008, 2012, and 2016 quite well, even developing an entire arc where Rene, and his girlfriend Suchitra, work on propaganda films for “Batwoman,” the Hillary Clinton off-stage character battling the Joker, who we all know ultimately reigns supreme.
My biggest problem with this book is that the end, when we find out all about Nero’s past, feels a little forced and extremely explanatory, almost to the detriment of the narrative, and I wish it had been introduced throughout the novel. His background was hinted at throughout the novel, but the third part leaned heavily on narrative exposition and was not even brought out through distinct dialogue points, which might have worked better to make the exposure feel more organic.
Ultimately, this book is great, even if it lags in part and sometimes leans too heavily on exposition instead of action, but Rushdie is very skilled in his craft and that is evident in this book.