November 05, 2017

The Golden House - Salman Rushdie


Random House, September 5, 2017.

 

Four Stars


 

Nero Golden is a powerful real estate tycoon who relocates to New York under mysterious circumstances, shortly after Obama’s inauguration. He arrives with his three adult sons, who all have issues of their own. The four Golden men take new identities with classical Roman names – Petronius, Lucius Apuleius, Dionysius – and enter into the high society of the rich and famous in downtown Manhattan.

 

Narrated by the Goldens' neighbor and family friend Rene, an aspiring filmmaker, Nero and his sons seem like the perfect subject for documentation. Rene chronicles their rise to power in New York society, their tragic ups and downs, and their eventual fall from power. The Goldens face conflicts involving money, women and the betrayal that takes place between siblings – all of it leading to an impending sense of danger.

 

The novel covers all the relevant plot points of American politics in the past eight years, starting with the new era of the American dream following Obama’s inauguration and ending with the ascendancy of an ambitious, media-savvy villain who aspires to become the 45th president – which should sound familiar to most of us. In our current political climate of “alternative truths”, The Golden House is a timely novel of identity, truth and lies – both personal and political.

 

This novel is classic Rushdie in both plot and style – it takes heavy themes and carries them lightly. It is a serious, literary, political novel while remaining highly readable. The references to The Great Gatsby emphasize the glittering New York setting – it is tragic, gaudy and clever. In fact, my main complaint is that it is sometimes overly clever, as only Rushdie can be.

 

The world of the Goldens is a post-modern, post-truth America with a focus on identity – hidden or otherwise. The unreliable narrator emphasizes this fact, and the fact that the many narrators of our current political situation are unreliable as well. Rushdie’s own opinions about the cartoony villain leading the country are clear, and leave no doubt about who he is referencing. This is a lengthy novel packed with pop culture and political information, and yet it is a fast paced and enjoyable read, and a clever guide to America today.

 

I received this book from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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