I know I should be reading books I've never read before, but I decided I couldn't pack away Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh without rereading it. I remembered it as my favorite Rushdie book, and it did not disappoint.
The Moor's Last Sigh follows a wealthy Indian house for four generations. They have made their money through the spice trade. They claim they are descendants from Vasco de Gama (from the wrong side of the sheets), and they are Catholic. The family is ruled by strong women and eventually, is destroyed by stronger/weaker men. There is no harmony in this family. They destroy one another, as if it were sport. The narrator of the story is the last of them, the Moor, and with his death comes the death of the family.
Epifania and her husband have two sons, Camoens and Aires. Epifania rules the household and Aires is her favorite. However, Aires and his wife, Carmen, are unable to produce children, mostly because Aires is gay and he and his wife never have sex. Camoens brings home a beautiful, strong-willed orphan, Isabella. While Epifania is trying to gain control of the business (her husband left her an allowance, but not the business upon his death) she ends up destroying the business and the family. Aires and Camoens are sent to prison (for allowing riots and such, this is during British rule) and while they are gone, Isabella takes over the business and the house. She builds the business back up and manages to establish some sort of peace within the house. However, she often neglects her only child, Aurora. Bella continues to keep control, even after the release of Camoens and Aires and eventually, she buys Aires 50% of the business. Unfortunately, she dies from lung cancer when Aurora is just 13 years old. Not long after that, her father takes a swim in the ocean that he had no intention of returning from.
During this time, Aurora has developed her artistic talents and has discovered she is indeed a wonderful painter. One night, while wandering around, she discovers her grandmother, Epifania, whom she blames for her mother's death, in the chapel and she suffers a stroke. She calmly sits down and watches her grandmother die. With her last breath, Epifania curses her granddaughter and her house. From this point on, it is Aurora's story.
At the age of 15, Aurora meets and instantly falls in love with Abraham Zogoiby, a Sepharic Jew who is 20 years her senior. No one will marry them, so they claim they are married and proceed to have 4 children. Abraham turns the family business into a vast network of black market activities, while Aurora concentrates on her artwork. The three girls they have are not so important to the story, but since their son, the Moor, is their narrator, he is very interesting.
The Moor was born after only 4 1/2 months in the womb. He was born with a club instead of a right hand and ages at twice the speed of normal people. Although the story is very interesting until this point, this is where it really takes off, with the man who is telling his own story. It is a story of twisted love, betrayal, hate, betrayal, more twisted love, and so many strange things that you don't know what to believe. In the end, having killed themselves off (or being killed by others) he is the only one left and he is running for his life.
This is a great book, and very different from The Satanic Verses. Rushdie is a master at creating a situation where one is willing to suspend disbelief. This is a book, where upon finishing, you still can't decide who you believe. Was it Abraham who killed Aurora, or one of her spurned lovers? Was the Moor's lover trying to kill him to destroy his mother, or was the poison meant for herself? Is anything as it seems? I'm glad I reread it before I packed it away.