The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie is a descriptive, convoluted, epic novel that both captivated my attention as well as made me want to abandon it all at the same time. The story, when I was able to follow it, was actually quite good … but being able to keep up with the twists and turns and the endless amounts of various characters drove me crazy at times (there were at least 100 different characters, and at times different names for the same character, too!).
Basically it is the fictionalized story of Amerigo Vespucci’s nephew and his visit to the Moghul emperor with a great secret! He brings the news that he, a boy from Italy, and the emperor are related by blood because of a common ancestor, the enchantress Qara Koz. Qara Koz was the emperor’s lost aunt and her great beauty enchanted everyone who came into contact with her. She became known as an enchantress because men, women, children…and even animals, fell under her spell. At one point, she even had the Medici Dukes and all of Florence under her power. Throughout the story, we are reunited with important figures from Renaissance Florence such as Machiavelli, Andrea Doria, Vespucci, Lorenzo di Medici, And Pope Leo X. We are also introduced to Emperor Akbar the Great in great detail. The Emperor of this story is a great and powerful man, but also a BIG dreamer. He has even given life to an imaginary queen! All this leant the novel to read like a sort of fairy tale.
If you are a lover of fine literature and you are in the mood to really work hard at understanding and interpreting this very important piece of literature, then I can recommend this book. But if you are looking for pure entertainment and relaxation from reading, then I think I would steer away from this book. I felt like I should have been taking notes to get the full appreciation of this formidable story.
This book was read as part of the Italy in Books Challenge 2011.