Summary and book reviews of The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

The Golden House

A Novel

by Salman Rushdie

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
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  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Matt Grant

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Book Summary

A modern American epic set against the panorama of contemporary politics and culture—a hurtling, page-turning mystery that is equal parts The Great Gatsby and The Bonfire of the Vanities

On the day of Barack Obama's inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of "the Gardens," a cloistered community in New York's Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous, famous on twenty blocks; and D, at twenty-two the baby of the family, harboring an explosive secret even from himself. There is no mother, no wife; at least not until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king—a queen in want of an heir.

Our guide to the Goldens' world is their neighbor René, an ambitious young filmmaker. Researching a movie about the Goldens, he ingratiates himself into their household. Seduced by their mystique, he is inevitably implicated in their quarrels, their infidelities, and, indeed, their crimes. Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down.

Set against the strange and exuberant backdrop of current American culture and politics, The Golden House also marks Salman Rushdie's triumphant and exciting return to realism. The result is a modern epic of love and terrorism, loss and reinvention—a powerful, timely story told with the daring and panache that make Salman Rushdie a force of light in our dark new age.

1

On the day of the new president's inauguration, when we worried that he might be murdered as he walked hand in hand with his exceptional wife among the cheering crowds, and when so many of us were close to economic ruin in the aftermath of the bursting of the mortgage bubble, and when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess, an uncrowned seventy-something king from a faraway country arrived in New York City with his three motherless sons to take possession of the palace of his exile, behaving as if nothing was wrong with the country or the world or his own story. He began to rule over his neighborhood like a benevolent emperor, although in spite of his charming smile and his skill at playing his 1745 Guadagnini violin he exuded a heavy, cheap odor, the unmistakable smell of crass, despotic danger, the kind of scent that warned us, look out for this guy, because he could order your execution at any moment, if you're wearing a displeasing shirt, for example, or if he wants...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If The Golden House has one fatal flaw, it's that it's about 200 pages too long. Rushdie is a man at the full height of his powers as a storyteller, who often comes across as more comfortable on a soapbox than in the narrator's chair. Even so, I couldn't stop thinking about The Golden House. At its heart, it's a family saga mixed with some good old-fashioned crime drama and intrigue.   (Reviewed by Matt Grant).

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Starred Review. A ravishingly well-told, deeply knowledgeable, magnificently insightful, and righteously outraged epic which posĀ­es timeless questions about the human condition. ... As Rushdie's blazing tale surges toward its crescendo, life, as it always has, rises stubbornly from the ashes, as does love.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A sort of Great Gatsby for our time: everyone is implicated, no one is innocent, and no one comes out unscathed.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] distinctively rich epic of the immigrant experience in modern America, where no amount of money or self-abnegation can truly free a family from the sins of the past.

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Beyond the Book

The Roman Emperor Nero

In The Golden House, readers are introduced to Nero Golden, a larger-than-life figure who claims the name of Rome's most infamous emperor for his own. As it turns out, Nero Golden's tragic life closely mirrors that of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who ruled the Roman Empire for just over a decade, from AD 54-68. Nero became emperor when he was just 17, and quickly dispatched all those who opposed his rise, including his own mother. After beheading his first wife for adultery, he killed his second wife by kicking her in the stomach while she was pregnant in what the Roman historian Tacitus described as a "casual outburst of rage."

A bust of Emperor Nero On June 19, A.D. 64, a fire spread across the city for nine full days. Ten of Rome's 14 ...

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