Synopsis The place is Los Angeles, 1991. Maximilian Ophuls is knifed to death on the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India, slaughtered by his Kashmiri driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar, the Clown. The dead man is a World War II Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability and much erotic appeal, a former United States ambassador to India, and subsequently America’s counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal. This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter – and of a fourth character, the woman who links them all. The story of a deep love gone fatally wrong, destroyed by a shallow affair, it is an epic narrative that moves from California to France, England, and above all, Kashmir: a ruined paradise, not so much lost as smashed.
Bookclub Review Summary:
The novel begins with an assassination, and then circles back through time before ending near its beginning. The book is divided into five movements, each named after one of the main characters. The story begins in Los Angeles in 1991, where we meet the glamorous and brilliant student India Ophuls and her father, Max Ophuls a man of movie-star good looks’. Max Ophuls was the World War II Resistance hero, the philosopher prince, the billionaire power-broker’, escaped from Occupied France and then served for years as the US ‘counterterrorism chief’. Along the way, Ophuls found time to go to India as the US ambassador, and conceived his daughter there. He told her nothing about her mother. Maximilian Ophuls is knifed to death, slaughtered by his Kashmiri driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar, the Clown.
The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal. This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter – and of a fourth character, the woman who links them all. The story of a deep love gone fatally wrong, destroyed by a shallow affair, it is an epic narrative that moves from California to France, England, and above all, Kashmir: a ruined paradise, not so much lost as smashed.
Here’s what the group had to say:
The bookclub really enjoyed this vivid and elaborate book.
They felt that Salman Rushdie wove the various strands of the book together very well and that no loose ends were left hanging. The sentences were beautifully constructed and had a poetic and melodic lilt to the words. The story had tremendous depth, was highly believable and greatly symbolic. The book is interwoven with continual reference to personal and national mythologies which sometimes overlap and often blur. For example, could each of the main the characters represent different cultures? It was suggested that the character of Max might represent American foreign policy, for example, and some even compared his assassination to 11th September.
There are further parallels in the novel which cross time and geographies. The idyllic cities of Kashmir and Strausburg being destroyed. Shalimar the clown’s real name is Noman, or is it Noman (?) and Max Ophuls life ends and India Ophuls life begins. Rushdie cleverly creates circles within circles throughout the book and the sliding scale from happy people and idyllic country to destroyed villages and people, is expertly done. The group also felt that the main characters were well developed
However on the negative side, there were a few issues which the group identified; that certain details within the book were not plausible i.e. the witness for Shalimar the clown and the part in the book when he escapes jail and is seen flying through the air! Rushdie is clearly very sarcastic sometimes, especially women coming from the Eastern Block.
The main theme of the book was identified as survival it is clear throughout the book how each of the 5 main characters managed to survive their own personal living hell. This is not a positive book on human beings rather a reflection on the darker side of their relationships that they hold with each other, the dark underbelly of the “paradise” that they live in and indeed love.
We all laughed at the 35 course meal and how food was also a very important theme throughout the book, brilliant !
Buzz words (one word that the group identifies that summarizes the book, from their perspective).
“loops”, “scared”, “story telling”, “human nature”, “faded destiny”, “tragedy”, “introduction”