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The Golden House

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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.

380 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Salman Rushdie

130 books11k followers
The Satanic Verses (1988), novel of Indian-born British writer Salman Rushdie led Ruholla Khomeini, the ayatollah of Iran, to demand his execution and then forced him into hiding; his other works include Midnight's Children (1981), which won the Booker prize, and The Moor's Last Sigh (1995).

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, a novelist and essayist, set much of his early fiction at least partly on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism, while a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

His fourth novel led to some violent protests from Muslims in several countries. Faced with death threats and a fatwa (religious edict) issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, which called for him to be killed, he spent nearly a decade largely underground, appearing in public only sporadically. In June 2007, he was appointed a Knight Bachelor for "services to literature", which "thrilled and humbled" him. In 2007, he began a five-year term as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory University.

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Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,226 followers
February 12, 2020
4.5 stars

Salman Rushdie’s 13th novel, The Golden House, plays out as a Shakespearean drama re-imagined in the eyes of a postmodernist and set in the Obama era of ultra-riche Manhattan. (There, how’s that for an elevator pitch?) This novel is full of nostalgic references, ornate erudite descriptions and high-brow prose, as you would expect from the man who brought us Midnight’s Children and holds an esteemed Booker Prize. I, myself, was first introduced to Salman Rushdie by Hanif Kureishi, who wrote one of my favorite college reads, The Black Album , in response to the fatwah issued by Islamic fundamentalists intent on killing Rushdie for writing his 4th novel, The Satanic Verses. So, you can imagine the anticipation I felt to finally meet this great novelist and essayist up close and in person for myself—or as up close and in person as one’s words on a page will allow us to get to the true author themselves.

And here you have it. Sit back and imagine this:

The Golden House trots along the Obama era years, from his inauguration on January 20, 2009, up to the election that gave us our 45th president. This political period is the mirror against which these characters see their lives unfolding, crumbling and transforming. Nero Golden and his household of three sons, of which he is the godlike patriarch, are expatriates of an unnamed country (which is eventually named) after a terrorist tragedy takes the life of their matriarch and shady financial deals finish them off in their homeland, sending the family to New York to rebuild their lives with the help of their obscene and conspicuous wealth by way of the American Dream. They move into a mega-mansion in an affluent neighborhood in Manhattan, where all 22 homes of the community back into a luxurious garden oasis that the families all collectively enjoy. It is in this near-utopian communal setting where lives begin to cross and our narrator, René, is met by the leading family. We follow him on his journey to infiltrate, observe and ultimately document the Golden lives in a film he’s been longing to make but isn’t really sure of how to go about doing. Along the way, characters come and go. As the modern-day “Julio-Claudian” drama unfolds, death occurs. Birth occurs. Marriage occurs. The saga of their lives unfolds, shatters, melts down and repairs—never in that order.

If you’re looking for a single word to describe this novel, a good starting place would be dense though I cannot argue that it is unnecessarily so, and the read certainly wouldn’t have been the same without this aspect. Literary allusions—call me Ishmael— abound on every page here and, quite honestly, you might want to have a digital encyclopedia on hand for quick reference through some of these passages— Chinese hexagrams of divination, for example? But I loved that, reveled in it for the most part, in fact, because this enlightened display of narrative talent played with so many forms of storytelling, from conventional narrative formatting to scenes written as screenplays, from the use of quotations marks to the use of not-a-one, and back again. It was a journey, but at least it was a ride too, crossing the lines of contemporary fiction, postmodernism and metafiction.

Here you’ll find wry social commentary that crackles and pops with dry irony, heaped on in healthy doses so that no culture—past or present, Eastern or Western—is safe from the scrutinizing eye—though, with the backdrop of this novel being set specifically against the Obama era, much of the commentary hits hard on American culture, smashing up against it forcefully and knocking down our perception of it, knocking down the barriers around talking about it, from Black Lives Matter to the collapse of the housing market to transgender transformation and everywhere in between:

"Once upon a time…if a boy liked pink and dolls his parents would be afraid he was homosexual and try to interest him in boy stuff…they might have doubts about his orientation but it wouldn’t occur to them to question his gender. Now it seems you go to the other extreme. Instead of saying the kid’s a pansy you start trying to persuade him he’s a girl."

“What is American culture?” This novel dares to seriously ask—often pokes fun at—and ultimately explores—no, turns inside out—this beloved cliché we and the world over cling to called the American Dream, from the viewpoint of the transplant, from the viewpoint of those ultimately in search of themselves in the whirlwind that is our lives in our culture today.

“…I could feel it, the anger of the unjustly dead, the young men shot for walking in a stairwell while black, the young child shot for playing with a plastic gun in a playground while black, all the daily black death of America, screaming out that they deserved to live, and I could feel, too, the fury of white America at having to put up with a black man in a white house, and the frothing hatred of the homophobes…the blue-collar anger of everyone who had been Fannie Mae’d and Freddie Mac’d by the housing calamity, all the discontent of a furiously divided country, everyone believing they were right…”

Rushdie’s insightful narrative is at times chilling in its acute accuracy about our cultural climate and our 45th president—“…the Joker shrieked…in that bubble…gun murderers were exercising their constitutional rights but the parents of murdered children were un-American…mass deportations would be a good thing; and women reporters would be seen to be unreliable because they had blood coming out of their whatevers…"— and made The Golden House a complete package, which managed to be both entertaining and at times mildly surreal, with the help of a wink toward a more avant-garde formatting technique and a nod toward the “magically real.”

I navigated this novel with the sense of one at their grandfather’s knee, he with brandy and cigar in hand, hearing a tale that was often fascinating in its baroqueness. The Golden House is chocked full of so many things we love in reads—solid plotting, whimsy and intellectual stimuli—which made the ornate density of this novel worth persevering through in the end—and that both stirred and excited my reader soul, like a hearty helping of literary gumbo you have to close your eyes and smile to enjoy, adding depth to the layers of the pages, of these words. And, that was easily enough for 4.5 stars. ****

**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, Random House, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,467 followers
February 1, 2019
“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.”
Kim Jong Un
Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump
—The Big Bad Wolf

Salman, Salman, Salman.
We need to talk.
I revere you, Mr Rushdie. Not only do you put me in mind of a wise apothecarist straight from a Scheherezade tale, but for three decades I’ve solidly sung your praises. And your Booker-winning epic, Midnight’s Children is the one novel I’d take with me if I were banished to a desert island. I sincerely hope that this punishment isn’t meted out, Mr Rushdie, but I can assure you that the aforementioned book would be the exact one I’d take.
(Why am I talking to him? Is he even reading this?)
And yet, despite my enduring faith in the mastery of your storytelling, you’ve dulled the shine of my veneration by writing Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, and now this!
*Another sigh*

Less of a structured novel and more a rambling stream of Rushdie’s consciousness, this amorphous soliloquy is rammed to the rafters with a farrago of all that ails and delights one of our greatest living authors about our modern world.
Nero Golden, a mysterious tycoon with a sketchy past, voluntarily exiles his family from Bombay/Mumbai and moves to a voluminous mansion in affluent Manhattan. Nero has aged like a fine wine; he’s as perspicacious as he is formidable and speaks several languages.
His story is told by a neighbour, René Underlinden, an amateur filmmaker who makes a mockumentary of the Golden family's expat life in Obama’s America.

Now I was told, from an early age, that one should never discuss politics or religion; but Salman clearly didn’t listen to his mum, because he attacks these social taboos with an unashamed gusto, mischievously drawing parallels between bible belt bigots and Muslim extremists. And yes, despite being one of our most eminent writers, he’s as fond of a stereotype as an Irishman is fond of a Guinness! ; )
And, if you’re a Trump supporter (as half of America appear to be), please, please don’t read this book. Rushdie really has it in for the man (Donald is likened to The Joker, Hillary is portrayed as Batgirl). He is of course free to write whatever he wants but, regardless of my own feelings towards America’s forty-fifth president, I’m not convinced that the immersive otherworld of a fictional novel is really the appropriate place to air such views.

Anyway, back to the story.
Nero’s cosy new life in his adoptive home is turned on its head by Vasila Arsenyeva, a long-limbed, gold-digging Siberian bombshell, who is as silent and as haughty as a cat and whose inner self has been consumed (quite literally) by Baba Yoga, the child-eating witch. There ensues an allegorical tale warning of the pitfalls that await each of the world’s most powerful narcissists - Nero’s predictive name of course giving us something of a clue as to his destiny.
I must confess that getting through this novel was a war of attrition at times, but I'm still not giving up on one of my very favourite authors; the great man’s authorial impishness and his artifice can still be seen glowing in the embers of his writing.

Sir Salman, mate, it’s not too late for you to rise again from the ashes. Come on over to my place for a tête-à-tête. We share an interest in magical realism, Marvel comics, arthouse movies and dwatted wabbits. We could fix this slump in form over a nice pot of tea - perhaps even a naked wrestle in front of a roaring fire (like Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in Women in Love), if that’s more to your liking?

On reflection, we’d best stick with the tea.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,721 followers
August 19, 2017
Searching for the right words to describe this book, Rushdie's 13th, and my very first foray into his oeuvre, the best thing I can come up with is hot mess. Overblown, bombastic in parts, melodramatic most of the way through, mind-numbingly boring in others, pinged with moments of social satire and brilliance.

I'm such a rule follower. I received the ARC of this book from Netgalley and felt a duty to finish this book and write this review, hence, I finished this book, to its very last page. If I were more free spirited, like many of my brilliant, book-abandoning, life-is-too-short friends, I would not have slogged my way through the first THIRD of this book, in which nothing actually happens, and the very annoying narrator continually alludes to things happening in the future in a very overwrought and unnecessarily mysterious fashion.

The story revolves around the Golden family, three sons lead by their criminal father, who, because of his criminal associations, leave their country of origin and reinvent themselves in Manhattan. They all take very poncey new names, and are ultimately punished for this disingenuous reinvention.

The narrator is a neighbour who somehow inveigles into the family. He's a wannabe filmmaker, and thus his narrative is positively peppered with pop culture references (movies, books, and the like) to the point where my throat burned with the over-spiciness of it all. Instead of being enjoyable, it felt overdone and try-hard and exhausting to read.

The rise and fall of this family is elevated to ridiculous levels of importance. But, where Rushdie really got my attention is when he began making timely connections between the state of the nation (during the time leading up to the current U.S. presidential election) and the state of the Golden house, writing some incredible, damning passages that leave no ambiguity to his feelings towards the 45th president. These passages are powerful, stunning and show a fiery mastery of political/social commentary.

In that bubble, razor-tipped playing cards were funny, and lapel flowers that sprayed acid into people's faces were funny, and wishing you could have sex with your daughter was funny, and sarcasm was funny even when what was called sarcasm was not sarcastic, and lying was funny, and hatred was funny, and bigotry was funny, and bullying was funny, and the date was, or almost was, or might soon be, if the jokes worked out as they should, nineteen eighty-four.

The parallels between Golden and the current president (referred to as the Joker) are unmistakable, even Golden's somewhat entertaining Melania-like second wife. However, I found it rambling, overwritten and heavy handed. Not terribly compelling for me, as a novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,794 reviews2,386 followers
July 2, 2017
4.5 Stars

“The Golden House” was my first book from Salman Rushdie, his thirteenth novel to date. It begins 20 January 2009, with Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, setting the stage by reminding us of the economic ruin following the mortgage crisis that President Obama inherited.

On the same day, Nero Golden, his three sons, Petronius, or Petya, Lucius Apuleius, or Apu and Dionysius, or D, arrive in the US from an unnamed country of origin, moving into a new abode in the “Gardens,” an exclusive area of Greenwich Village where all of the 22 houses are linked connected by their garden hidden away from the city.

Petya, 40, an agoraphobic, and an alcoholic, and Apu, 41, an attention-seeking artist, were born slightly less than one year apart, they share the same mother, and even the same zodiac sign. Dionysius has no recollection of his mother, and is still a relatively young 22. Eventually, Nero Golden, in his early 70s, brings into their new home a new wife, Vasilisa, a Russian expatriate.

Their neighbor, René, who loves the gardens, all things of beauty, is drawn to the Goldens; in them he sees a story that needs to be told. His passion is filmmaking; he sees himself as the artist painting their murky lives as he sees them, so that others will see them clearly, as well.

”He leaned forward when standing or walking, as if struggling constantly against a strong wind only he could feel, bent a little from the waist, but not too much. This was a powerful man; no, more than that—a man deeply in love with the idea of himself as powerful.”

Relatively early on in this novel, the era of Obama at the helm draw to a close, and the elections for the 45th President are on everyone’s minds, including the media.

”He was dangling his wickedness under our noses, reveling in it, challenging us to see it, contemptuous of our powers of comprehension, convinced of his ability easily to defeat anyone who rose against him.”

Rushdie’s observations from our past political election are quite accurate, if perhaps coloured by his personal vision. His many thoughts, regarding this man who would become President, with his “colored hair” and bearing, leaving no doubt of his opinions on this topic.

”Sometimes, watching him, I thought of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, a simulacrum of the human that entirely failed to express any true humanity.”

I would not describe reading this as a challenge, but rather a story you can’t really allow your attention to wander, or get sidetracked. Every sentence seems to carry more importance than most contemporary fiction, and Rushdie isn’t an author who injects wide spaces, long pauses between thoughts, so this book feels more extensive than most, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Pub Date: 05 Sep 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
February 3, 2018
Not sure why, but I am finished. Not entirely unlike trying to maintain with the lights on a pinball machine.

I’m grumpy when I’m disappointed. At one point, I stopped to check other reviews. Maybe I picked up the wrong book. The one that I was looking forward to. The one with the rave reviews is waiting for me.

Nope, not for me. Fortunately, the library wants it back.
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,613 followers
September 27, 2017
[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li...]

The world has turned into a cacophony of unrelenting voices, where people in high offices as well as pedestrian consorts battle every day to be one up. The lines have blurred as issues have bulldozed their way, against most conventions, right into our living rooms, and administrative, as well as clandestine, powers are clashing regularly, and vehemently, across continents over the fatal flames of terrorism, corruption, religion and human rights. Bringing together these critical elements under a sprawling tale of love, ambition, deception and collapse is what ‘The Golden House’ is all about.

On one silent day, when Nero Golden, the enigmatic, octogenarian patriarch of a family of four, tip-toes into a lavish mansion in downtown Manhattan, the neighbours’ antennae go up without exception. Nothing is known about the family – its past, its roots, its business, its relations. Nero’s three sons, Petya, Apu and D wander under equally mysterious pseudonyms and their circle remains sanctified of any unfamiliar trouble. Filthy rich and unusually secretive, they, at once, catch the fancy of their 20-something neighbour, René, an aspiring filmmaker whose search for a subject to feed his magnum opus had, till then, been elusive. The façade might have worked well had not a Russian missile come surreptitiously and hit the Goldens with scorching heat one evening – the ravishing Vasilisa. The tremors she sends across the bricks of the Golden House impales the garbs of its inhabitants and in their vulnerable faces, we gradually see, a lot of us.

Chronicling the USA of Obama and Trump, Sir Rushdie writes with his trademark erudition and flamboyance, taking digs at the political mayhem the American soil has gotten embroiled into. From outright flimsy reasons triggering furore, to the politically-driven human rights issues, and to even likening the current Presidential rule to the Orwellian 1984 world, he spins the febrile web of the socio-political fabric of America with surgical precision.
Spring, the last of the ice gone from the Hudson, and happy sails breaking out across the weekend water. Drought in California, Oscars for Birdman, but no superheroes available in Gotham. The Joker was on TV, announcing a run for president, along with the rest of the Suicide Squad. There was still more than a year and a half of the current president’s term to run but I was missing him already and nostalgic for the present.
Closer home, he doesn’t spare the vandals of now-inevitable secularistic dissent and terrorist attacks. 26/11 Mumbai is invoked, and so is the abhorrent slavery to corruption, and the mastery of Sir Rushdie lies in bringing these two worlds, that of America and India, so tantalizingly close, and to a common ground of the bizarrely chaotic. While oscillating between the cinematic advent of Marvel Comics binge and the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Gamergate and beef ban, one recognizes this work to be a dazzling collage of double zeitgeist, not to be missed.

On the humane and moralistic aspects, Sir Rushdie’s prose swells like air and fills the narrative space with believable characters that are strong yet flawed. I found the Golden brothers to bear uncanny resemblance to the three brothers in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov; why, even the eldest one is named Petya! Well, the genteel characterization of their strengths and fears, their shrewdness and vulnerability, points towards a place where they reflect the society we live in and in some way, become our kin. One might be tempted to give a bear hug to D who grapples under an identity crisis, or an evening to Petya whose agoraphobia warrants a walk in the nearby Gardens, or a lift to Apu whose demons come to haunt him. Whether it is the fight to keep the René -Suchitra relationship alive or the urge to stall the arrival of Alzheimer into Nero’s life, under the pitch-dark skies of seduction and treachery, lies and loss, the reader shall encounter redeeming sunshine of gender acceptance, infallible love, filial loyalty and intellectual futility.
The river of his thought was no longer clear, its water an opaque and muddied flow, and within it his consciousness was slowly losing its grip on chronology, on what was then, what now, what was waking truth and what had been born in the fairyland of dreams. The library of time was disordered, its categories jumbled, its indexes scrambled or destroyed.
Making our narrator, René, a filmmaker, turns out to be a very smart move. Apart from sprinkling generous movie recommendations like Volker Schlöndorff’s ‘Swann in Love’ , Robert Wiene’s 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ and Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’, the narrator’s profession facilitates to keep the viewfinder largely unrestricted despite the limitation of a first-person account. His role provides the book’s structure, a legitimate trail of imagination wherein he can relay a scene which he wasn’t privy to and yet, pass it with the stamp of veracity.

Can a person be both good and evil?

The Golden House is a towering novel, carrying sagacious meditation on human emotions and desires, and weaving their many threads into weapons that slither too close, issuing a resounding warning on the incredible proximity we have with one another and reminding us that no place, no matter how far and conducive, can absolve us of our past.

[Note: Thanks to Netgalley, Salman Rushdie and Random House for providing me an ARC.]


Also on my blog.
Profile Image for Warwick.
841 reviews14.6k followers
October 3, 2017

In Midnight's Children, Rushdie diabolizes Indira Gandhi in the form of The Widow, one of his most terrifying caricatures: ‘green and black the Widow’s hair and clutching hand and children mmff and little balls and one-by-one and torn-in-half and little balls go flying green black her hand is green her nails are black as black.’ Some years later, in The Satanic Verses, he tried something similar by turning Britain's Prime Minister into ‘Mrs Torture’. Now – no longer plain old Rushdie but an ennobled Sir Salman – he has Donald J. Trump in his sights, reimagined in The Golden House as ‘the Joker’, come to exploit an America stupid from superhero movies.

The origins of the Joker were disputed, the man himself seemed to enjoy allowing contradictory versions to fight for air space, but on one fact everyone, passionate supporters and bitter antagonists, was agreed: he was utterly and certifiably insane. What was astonishing, what made this an election year like no other, was that people backed him because he was insane, not in spite of it. What would have disqualified any other candidate made him his followers' hero. Sikh taxi drivers and rodeo cowboys, rabid alt-right blondes and black brain surgeons agreed, we love his craziness, no milquetoast euphemisms from him, he shoots straight from the hip, says whatever he fucking wants to say, robs whatever bank he's in the mood to rob, kills whoever he feels like killing, he's our guy.

The Joker is a background presence in this book and only gets talked about in the final third; the main focus is on the immigrant vulgarian Nero Golden, who is himself a Trumpian analogue, with the same speech patterns, putative wealth, and need to put his name ‘on everything from hot dogs to for-profit universities’. The growth of Nero's empire in the US, and its effect on his three sons, forms the narrative arc of the novel, as observed by our narrator, the Belgian-American filmmaker René.

Several problems. The main one is that the story is not especially engaging: for the most part we just plod along, hearing little snippets of soap-opera gossip from each son in turn, related to us in a strangely distant, elegiac tone that strips away any immediacy from the prose. One longs for a hint of that exuberance that marked Rushdie's writing in the 80s and early 90s. Narrator René compares himself to Isherwood at some point – ‘I am a camera’ – and comments, ‘Maybe I'm a smart camera. I record, but I'm not exactly passive.’ But despite his involvement in the plot, he is passive, and I didn't care about a single person he described. The writing is terribly pedestrian for someone who has written the kind of things Rushdie has written. While Indira Gandhi's India and Thatcher's Britain were explored from within, experientially, Trump's America is simply pointed at, like a news report, and said to be awful.

Along the way there are some game efforts to examine the key concerns of twenty-first-century America – the youngest Golden son, for instance, feels uncomfortable as a man and is encouraged to transition to a different gender. I thought at first that this might be an interesting exploration, building on a fleeting reference to India's hijra tradition, but the results are disappointing: he meets a sticky end and his social-justice girlfriend comes to the conclusion that identity politics are all a big mistake after all. I am not unsympathetic to that view, but here it just felt a lot more like the thoughts of a seventy-year-old author than a twentysomething arts curator. Ian McEwan also touched on this subject in Nutshell, but the difference is that McEwan's prose was pure fireworks.

Occasionally there are outright blunders. This could have come from Dan Brown:

In the game of chess the move known as the Queen's Gambit is almost never used because it gives up the most powerful piece on the board for the sake of a risky positional advantage. Only the true grandmasters would attempt so daring a maneuver […] the laying down of the queen to kill the king.

The queen's gambit involves putting a pawn on the fourth rank during the opening, and has nothing to do with sacrificing the queen as a piece.

To be sure, when Rushdie is talking about things that I think he cares about – primarily the 2016 US election and the 2008 Mumbai attacks – the energy picks up a bit, the sentences become more breathless and pacy, and you start to take notice. I loved, for example, his heartfelt reflection of how people coped with the dazed sense of reality after Trump was elected:

How does one live amongst one's fellow countrymen and countrywomen when you don't know which of them is numbered amongst the sixty-million-plus who brought the horror to power, when you can't tell who should be counted among the ninety-million-plus who shrugged and stayed home, or when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is élitist and they hate élites, and all you have ever had is your mind and you were brought up to believe in the loveliness of knowledge, not that knowledge-is-power nonsense but knowledge is beauty, and then all of that, education, art, music, film, becomes a reason for being loathed, and the creature out of Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington, D.C., to be born.

Perhaps it is worth reading the book for the paragraphs like this that crop up in its final sections. But I wish he had just written an article about Trump, and not tried to buttress it up with all the architecture of a novel, filled with characters I never had much interest in. (Nor, I suspect, did he.) In the future, I think it may be interesting to look back on The Golden House as an example of how great writers reacted to Trump's win as it was happening, but perhaps there isn't enough distance yet to really treat the subject with the full artistic arsenal that it demands. In this case, it's more of a gilded failure than the twenty-four-carat success I was crossing my fingers for.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,897 reviews536 followers
May 18, 2022
I kept wavering back and forth on this book. Sometimes I thought it was brilliant and other times I thought that it was tragically unsubtle. I also kept finding parts that I wanted to quote, because they were written so well and/or they described just how I felt. This was my first experience with this author, but I definitely want to read more by him now. The book covers so much territory including sons suffering from the sins of the father, identity fluidity and political commentary. It incorporates real events like terrorist attacks, a prison escape aided by a lovestruck prison employee and Trump's election (although using a different name for the clown-like, unqualified candidate).

The story is told through the eyes of a young, would-be film maker who thinks that the wealthy Golden family would make a great subject for a film. Nero Julius Golden comes from India to live in an old mansion in Greenwich Village with his three adult sons during the Obama administration. "[Nero] was majestic in all things, in his stiff-collared shirts, his cufflinks, his bespoke English shoes, his way of walking toward closed doors without slowing down, knowing they would open for him...and his often repeated dictum - one favored by absolute rulers from Caesar to Haile Selassie - that the only virtue worth caring about was loyalty." Each of the Goldens left his old identity behind and reinvented himself in America. Nero is later targeted by an expert Russian gold digger who has also reinvented herself and who comes prepared on their third date with a list of demands for cars, apartments and credit cards. The Goldens do very well in America until things begin to unravel for them (and for America).

As part of his political commentary, the author added how he feels as an artist and intellectual after the Trump election. "How does one live amongst one's fellow countrymen and countrywomen when you don't know which of them is numbered amongst the sixty million plus who brought the horror to power, when you can't tell who should be counted among the ninety million plus who shrugged and stayed home, or when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is elitist and they hate elites, and all you have ever had is your mind and you were brought up to believe in the loveliness of knowledge, not that knowledge-is-power nonsense but knowledge is beauty, and then all of that, education, art, music, film, becomes a reason for being loathed, and the creature of the Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington, DC to be born."

I was interested in the tragic arc of the lives of the Goldens and I totally identified with the author's despair about the direction of America. This was a fascinating, though messy, book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,070 reviews363 followers
October 26, 2017
Once upon a time a great man fled from his native country, a land embattled by infighting and death, and came to a country filled with dreams of a future of hope and promise.

Ah, yes, an apt description of Salman Rushdie and his primary character in The Golden House, Nero Golden. As I read through this verbose tale of the egotistical Golden, I realized that this was, in fact, a veiled auto-biography of Rushdie, intended or otherwise, most likely not.

In The Golden House, Nero Golden has immigrated to the US under secret circumstances with his adult children all of whom have assumed Roman names: Petronius, or Petya; Lucius Apuleius, or Apu, and Dionysius, or D. The family lives in downtown Manhattan in a gated community. The story is narrated by Rene', a neighbor and aspiring film maker who wants to make documentary about this mysterious family. It takes nearly 200 pages for the reader to gather this information.

Additionally, midway through the book the characters become involved in the contentious election of 2016, about which Rushdie makes his opinions very clear - the winner being The Joker. Seriously. He has green hair.

I truly understand metaphorical writing. I appreciate humor and certainly enjoy social commentary. However, I never fully understood into which of these The Golden House fell. There was so much verbage, so many ideas, too many great quotes, but they never were tied together cohesively. If Midnight's Children was Rushdie in his brilliance; this was Rushdie in full shade, with the curtains drawn and all of his hidden thoughts allowed to run amuck. Reading it was like watching a three ring circus without knowing where to look. Do you follow Nero and his sons? Rene' and his ramblings? The Joker and the election? Look here, look at me, but you couldn't follow all three because they only were held together by a gossamer filament.

Rushdie attempts, always, to enlighten his readers with social themes, political nuance, global issues. With The Golden House, however, his own personal discord and past have left us with a muddled mess. If you have not read this author before, please do so but begin with his earlier works.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for my copy of this book.
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,001 followers
September 12, 2017
This is a book of stories and identity; actual, created, and retold as tales to others. It questions what we think about as truth, especially when it comes to ourselves and others; what is said, hidden, implied, or lied about? Can we ever really know ourselves when we are so immersed and intertwined with other peoples' stories, with what they believe about us or want us to be? In this vortex of truth and lies, is one really more valid than the other?

From the outset it reminded me somewhat of The Virgin Suicides, enshrouded in a specific time, that of vivid modernity, but equally universal in the ways of human behaviour, shadowed by that overwhelming feeling of impeding doom. In case anyone thinks i'm giving something away, please see the choice of Roman/Greek names for the main characters. Rushdie might as well have been shouting this is not going to end well. The family treads the same path of decline as the America it inhabits, from the hope of the Obama era to the what Rushdie envisions as the Joker presidency. It could have been called The Fall of the Golden House. Or perhaps that's sufficiently implied.

The Goldens all told stories about themselves, stories in which essential information about origins was either omitted or falsified. I listened to them not as 'true' but as indications of character.

Of course, the reader only 'knows' this Golden family through the eyes of outsider, film director, and neighbour, Rene, whose current project is to make a film telling their story. The question never far from the mind is how much of what we are being told is real? Is it the truth as the Golden's would understand it? Far from reflecting the impartial gaze of the camera, Rene's perceptions determine the narrative, especially as his associations with the family become closer and more complex. This is reflected in the structure of the writing, sometimes set up as a film script, with directions and asides from the narrator. It is not steady narrative, it jumps from the 'we' of the collective habitants of 'The Gardens' surrounding Golden House, to the 'I' of Rene, to internal monologues he could only be imagining, reported speech, and even interjections from mythical characters of folklore, like witch Baba Yaga. These layered stories, interspersed with frequent literary, cultural, and film quotation and reference, combine to form a labyrinth of connected lives and ideas, revealing how we use others' stories to illuminate our own, sometimes guiding or bolstering our identity, or even overwhelming who we are or who we might be. In the end, when it comes to people, truth and reality may be nothing more our own creations.

I'm also finally finishing up my Golden screenplay, my faction about these men who made fictions of themselves, and the two are blurring into each other until i'm not sure anymore what's real and what I made up.

I can see how others might find this too self-referential, too obviously clever, but it's nevertheless my favourite since Midnight's Children. As a commentary on modern society and contemporary ideas of truth and identity, it's not to be missed.

ARC via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,536 followers
October 1, 2017
This is a masterful literary achievement and a great lens on contemporary American culture from the perspective of an unusual immigrant family. The Goldens—an old man named Nero and his three adult sons-- arrive in Manhattan around 2008 and take up residence in a mansion that shares a common garden park with a small neighborhood of wealthy residents. Our narrator, who calls himself Rene, is an aspiring film maker in his twenties who is still living with his parents in the same neighborhood and who becomes obsessed with the mystery and allure of the Goldens. Their story is that they simply chose to leave their life in unnamed country to create a new life in America. By ingratiating himself with the family, Rene soon learns small pieces of their hidden story, in particular that they are escaping from some disaster that included a tragic death of Nero’s wife and that Nero had some connection with gangsters. Whatever unknown crimes are waiting for him to uncover, Rene is captivated by Nero’s overall modus operandi:
…he was, they all were, in the grip of a huge fantasy: the idea that men would not be judged by who they once were and what they had once done, if only they decided to be different.

Rene’s compulsion to figure out what makes the Golden’s tick becomes linked to his ambition to make a great movie based on their lives. A movie with parallels to “Rear Window” or “The Great Gatsby.” As he slowly becomes effectively a member of their family, he learns their secrets piece by piece. The mythic overtones are already there in their adoption of names in their new country—e.g. Nero for the tyrannical Roman emperor and one son with the name of the god Dionysus. The oldest son, Petronius (aka Peyra), is brilliant in mathematics and writing computer games but is socially clumsy and suffers from agoraphobia and an Asperger-like condition. The second son, Lucius Apuleius (Apu for short), is a “gluttonous agoraphile” who sought out the varieties of life in the city “like a young Whtiman”, became an avante garde artist, and “came to be thought of as a magic creature, an escapee from a fairy tale, though nobody could say if he was charmed or doomed”. While these two were over 40, Dionysus, who goes by “D”, is 20 years younger, a sensitive man who turns out to have gender identity issues. He loves a woman who runs the “Museum of Identity” and who pressures him to make the transgender metamorphosis, a jump he balks at and leads him to much anguish. A final key character is an elegant Russian woman of 28, Vasilisa, who picks Nero as her husband and Tsar of money and power.

Rene is writing from some point in the future, which is the reader’s contemporary time at the end of 2016. He warns us that he is an unreliable narrator:
Maybe I am a smart camera. I record, but I’m not exactly passive. I think, I alter. Possibly I even invent. To be an imaginer, after all is very different from being a literalist.

Prospective readers might consider this set-up and become wary over whether this book is for them. Like me, maybe they doubt whether the lives of the powerful and wealthy would be compelling. Maybe through “The Sopranos” and “The Godfather” you believe you have had your fill of exploring the human side of those who struggle to live with their ill-gotten gains. But this is something different. It feels like a true portrait of America as a field of dreams and tragic disappointments, spanning the interval between the election of Obama and that of Trump. As the plot unfolds and Rene crosses the line from observer to a serious participant in the drama and unfolding tragedies in the Golden’s lives, we are embedded a lot of substantive moral choices about how we should live our lives. While being taxed to judge and figure out the characters before me on Rene’s stage, I was delightfully dizzied by all the help proffered from the wise men of history and truth wizards of our current time. Allusions abound in every paragraph—from movies and literature to songs and slogans from popular culture. Instead of cryptic references or obscure allegory that you can encounter with a Nabokov or Joyce, most of such stretches of context and framing are clear and bound well into the lively dialogue and situations of the characters. You may only have a dim conception of, say, the Greek plays of Aristophanes or the movies of Luis Bunuel, but a deftly explained and relevant reference to them is satisfactorily uplifting and edifying for me. It begins to sink in that the issues of lofty figures from Homer or Shakespeare have their counterpart in the lives of the novel’s characters and, in turn, the average reader.

The tone the narrator takes wavers between the casually intimate to mock epic in scope. I loved that variety. With a simple word or phrase—“Cut”, “Fade to black”—Rene’s narration puts a smile on my face as a collaborating camera man. I appreciated Rene’s stated ambition of transmuting the lives of “real” characters into film tropes as the reverse of Woody Allen’s play on film characters breaking out into real life in his “Purple Rose of Cairo”. Despite this kind of romping, Rushie claimed in a recent PBS interview that his goal with the book was to convey to his readers a vision of “how things really are” and, hopefully, in the course of time to be able to evoke the reaction that “this is how things really were.” In the background of the story, Trump as a nameless candidate appears as a green-haired Joker of comic book fame. No magical realism here. During this period Rene makes money helping his lover create satirical political advertising for the other candidate, who is portrayed as Batwoman in various scenarios. Rushie emphasizes the critical need at this time for laugher, noting that he has Trump figure “cackling at the edges of the story.” I think for many of us the collision of reality and unreality is well summed up in Rene’s internal pondering here:

How does one live amongst one’s fellow countrymen and countrywomen when you don’t know which of them is numbered against the sixty-million plus who brought the horror to power, when you can’t tell who should be counted among the ninety-million plus who shrugged and stayed home, or when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is elitist and that they hate all elites, ��and then all of that, education, art, music, film, becomes a reason for being loathed, and the creature out of Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington, D.C., to be born.

The story Rene wants to forge into a movie is ultimately his own story. The novel asks if his character will develop past his challenges and barriers using lessons he can learn from the Goldens. His filmmaker lover lays out this scope of Rushie’s novel:
“You realize”, Suchitra said, “that this has become a movie about you, and all these Golden boys are aspects of your own nature. …All the characters are the auteur. It’s like Flaubert, Madame Bovary, c’est moi.
“But I’m not an artist”, I said, “not sexually conflicted, not autistic, not a Russian gold digger, not a powerful old man in decline.”
“You’re carrying their questions with you wherever you go. The question of Apu’s life…Is it necessary to be profound or can you remain permanently on the surface? You need to answer this question also. D Golden, as his father also said, was all about ambiguity and pain. I feel it in you also, some ambiguity. I feel that you are in pain. As for Petya, he’s hemmed in by himself, he can’t escape his nature, though he much wants to be free. And maybe his games, the games he invents, are his freedom. That’s the place where he isn’t afraid. Maybe that’s the place you need to find. …And the old man …He is enfolded in tragedy, and so are you. He has lost sons, you lost parents. Your grief defines you and shuts you off from other people.
…I just see who you can be and I want you to see it too. Be profound. Own your tragedy. Find your freedom. Resolve your ambiguity, whatever it is.”

Throughout the book we are asked to consider whether a person can be both good and evil. Rene has to expand that debate over each of the Goldens to his own person. At one point he reaches the following dark state:
…I learned the final lesson, the learning of which separates us from innocence. That there was no safe space, that the monster was always at the gates, and a little of the monster was within us too, we were monsters we had always feared, and no matter what beauty enfolded us, no matter how lucky we were in life or money or family or talent or love, at the end of the road the fire was burning, and it would consume us all.

Pretty ponderous and portentious, right? But we want to love and trust this Rene. Maybe we find some way to proceed in a Trump world with the following lesson:
The antic clothing of the absurd, the idea of the meaninglessness of life, was a more attractive philosophical garment to many of us than the tragedian’s somber robes, which, when worn, became both the evidence and the agents of doom. But it was also an aspect of human nature—just as powerful a characteristic of the contradictory human animal as its opposite—fatalistically to accept that there was indeed a natural order of things, and uncomplainingly to play the cards you were dealt.

Overall, I was richly rewarded by this read. I was thrilled by it lively pace and well pleased with the balance between playful satire and serious drama. One of my best reading experiences of the year.

This book was provided by the published for review through the Netgalley program.

Profile Image for Susan.
2,693 reviews595 followers
August 16, 2017
“If human nature were not a mystery, we’d have no need of poets.”

Without doubt, this is the best novel that Salman Rushdie has produced in a while. Rushdie uses the unsettled American political landscape – this novel begins with the inauguration of Barack Obama and ends with the rise of ‘the Joker,’ a (very) thinly veiled portrait of Trump – to great effect. He ties in the eight years of the 44th President to the ‘reign’ of Nero Golden, a seventy-something man, who arrives from an unknown location and moves into the ‘Golden House’ of the title; the place formerly known as the ‘Murray Mansion,’ before the occupants changed hands. The house, the grandest in the community, helps form a wealthy enclave in New York, with all of the rear yards of the properties crating an enclosed, communal garden, which is much loved by the residents.

One such resident is our narrator, Rene, who lives with his parents in one of the houses, and soon becomes obsessed with Nero Golden and his three sons; Petya, Apu and Dionysus (or simply ‘D’). Nero Golden has re-named his sons and carefully guards their family history and secrets. With speculation amongst his neighbours rife, gradually Rene befriends the residents of the Golden House, learns their secrets, watches their rise – and spectacular fall – and becomes involved in their lives, as they become linked with his.

Rene longs to be a film-maker and his subjects are to be the residents of the Golden House. Life, of course, is not static, and the arrival of women in the Golden men’s lives, changes the dynamics within the Golden House in many ways. Indeed, the family secrets, the intrigue, the relationships between the characters would undoubtedly make a block buster of a movie. Rushdie effortlessly weaves his characters, who take their names from myth and the ancient world, and combines this with the current political landscape, to create a riveting account of a young man’s awakening and his confusing relationships with those around him. An excellent novel, which would be perfect for reading groups, with so much to discuss. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,049 reviews48.7k followers
September 6, 2017
“The Golden House” doesn’t mention Trump by name — Rushdie wouldn’t give him that satisfaction — but there’s no doubt about the real identity of the “giant victorious green-haired cartoon king.” That gothic villain rages around the background of this story, setting the tone for a nation in peril. The narrator howls, “The best had lost all conviction, and the worst were filled with passionate intensity and the weakness of the just was revealed by the wrath of the unjust.”

Speaking of Trump’s unlikely election, Rushdie recently told an interviewer, “This thing that is very bad for America is very good for the novel,” but that sounds like fake news. In any event, Trump’s election is not very good for this novel, in which Rushdie pokes through the story whenever he wants to pop off about America’s poisonous political culture, “the horror spreading everywhere at high speed.”

In the foreground, “The Golden House” is a family epic that cobbles together contemporary drama, ancient myths and modern films. We follow the rise and fall of a fabulously wealthy businessman named Nero Julius Golden (the quality of subtlety is not strained in these pages). He arrives in New York in 2009 with his three doomed sons. Refusing to speak of the country they left. . . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Melki.
6,029 reviews2,387 followers
November 30, 2017
They were four men
Living all together
Yet they were all alone

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that this is the first book I've read by Rushdie, therefore, I can't compare it to his many other titles. I only know that I found this one to be mostly fascinating, though keep in mind - I am a fan of books that portray the obscenely wealthy in a bad light.

"In my American house," he told his attentive sons in the limousine as it drove them from the airport to their new residence, "morality will go by the golden standard." Whether he meant that morality was supremely precious, or that wealth determined morality, or that he personally, with his glittering new name would be the judge of right and wrong, he did not say . . .

Not long after the election of President Barack Obama, a mysterious billionaire and his three grown sons arrive in NYC. Intrigued by all four men, a young neighbor worms his way into their confidences, determined to use them as source material for a film. The apple cart gets irrevocably overturned when a lovely young woman enters the picture, and the kingdom . . . a woman who's got her eye on the King. What follows is an American tragedy, somewhat leavened with great dollops of humor. Plus, Rushdie gets to unleash some much deserved vitriol on Donald J. Trump. I was nodding along with every word.

I'm ready for more Rushdie.

*The Brady Bunch theme song by Sherwood Schwartz
Profile Image for Lisa.
647 reviews243 followers
April 7, 2018
A fabulously intelligent and mysterious novel about identity set against the backdrop of contemporary American politics and culture.

Barack Obama has just been inaugurated the first time when a septuagenarian foreign billionaire and his three adult sons take up residence in New York’s Greenwich Village. Nero Julius Golden arrives at his new home in a Daimler limousine, with his eldest son Petya, 44, who is agoraphobic and an alcoholic; Apu who is 41 and a romantic and flamboyant artist, and D who at 22 is the baby of the family and harbors a deeply held secret. But, that is only one of many secrets that this family holds. The biggest secret is why they have come to the United States, and changed their identities. While still in the limousine Nero tells his son to never tell anyone where they came from.

Upon the Golden’s arrival at their new home, the Murray mansion, the grandest of all the homes in the Macdougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District, we soon are introduced to the Golden’s neighbor, and our narrator René. René is an ambitious young filmmaker full of energy and ambition and enamored with the Golden’s mystique. He ingratiates himself with the family in order to learn as much as he can, with the hope of finding out what brought them here and developing a movie about them. He not only tells the story but soon plays a part of the story, he inevitably become embroiled in the family’s quarrels, romances, infidelities and their secrets.

THE GOLDEN HOUSE is set against the backdrop of current American culture and politics. As the family assimilates to life in the US, events begin unfolding triggering disaster for the Golden family. The mystery of who this family were, where they immigrated from, and why, is a predominant part of the story.

The character development for THE GOLDEN HOUSE was masterful. Nero and each of his sons image, personality, interests, strengths and weaknesses leap off the pages of this book. It's easy to become enthralled with each of their unique and perhaps, peculiar lives. And even René, the knowledgable neighbor, and creative and passionate narrator proves to be a most endearing character. His integration with the family proves to be more than even he expected.

The story of the of Golden family is intense, mysterious and complex. A variety of topics are included in this 368 page book: current politics, fidelity, sexual identity, autism, art culture, migration, honesty, and sins of the father. The complexity of the book is derived from René’s innumerable historical, literary, and film references, many of which I was not familiar with. While this was somewhat challenging, it did not diminish the enjoyment of THE GOLDEN HOUSE. Another imaginative part of the book was René’s telling of portions of the story as a scripted scene of how he would film it for his movie. Loved it! One of my favorite parts of the book was SALMAN RUSHDIE’s adroit humor when describing the 2016 presidential election, in particularly the ingenious symbolic use of a certain comic book villain as the crass candidate in the election. Not that there was ever any doubt that RUSHIE admirably stood with Her.

Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews585 followers
May 16, 2017
"The Golden House" exceeded my expectations. I was a little 'ho hum' for the first 10% to 12% percent. Once introduced to the character Petya, the oldest son in 'The Golden Family', the storytelling kept soaring.
I was immediately pulled in to the personality profiles of each of Nero Golden's three son's.

Petya, is considered high on the autism spectrum. I was especially interested in
the behaviors of Petya because my husband and I had guest staying with us last week who either had austism or we suspected Asperger's. It was a challenge and experience for us last week. Our guest was in town for a virtual reality symposium. He was exactly the way Petya is described: extraordinary, vulnerable, gifted, and an incompetent human being. "He was physically clumsy, and sometimes, when agitated, clumsy to the mouth, stammering and stuttering and being infuriated by his own ineptitude".
Petya prefer to stay indoors -just like our guest -perhaps borderline agoraphobic.
If you asked Petya direct question he would answer honestly because his brain made it impossible for him to lie....
"Yet out of loyalty to his father's wishes he managed to find a way. He trained himself in locutions of avoidance, "I will not answer that question", or "maybe you should ask someone else". At age 42.... there were parts of Petya that would always remain a child. I was fascinated with Petya.....


Then we meet his brother, one year younger in 'age'. Their birthdays are less than 12 months apart. Lucius Apuleius, a.k.a. Apu. is 41 -- a Gemini horsescope like his older brother Petya.
Apu was unsympathetic to his older brothers issues. A very different type of person in every shape and form. He was a gifted painter - considered technically as great as Dali. Many of the New York ladies were happy to undress for him.... and soon after his first solo show he became a famous artist.

"America changed them both, Petya and Apu--America, that divided self--polarizing them as America was polarized, the wars of America, external and internal, becoming their wars as well; but in the beginning, if Petya arrived in New York as a heavy
-drinking polymath who was afraid of the world and found living in it a constant hardship, then Apu came as the sober romantic artist and promiscuous metropolitan, flirting with everything that was visionary yet with a clarity of vision that allowed him to see people plain as his portraits showed".

The youngest son is named D. D is 22 years old... he feels like the odd one out child - has dealt with loneliness -feels like a misfit in his own skin. He's withholding a secret from his family.

Rene is a young filmmaker - around mid 20's - young with energy and ambition. He
weasels himself- very smoothly into the Golden family. He wants to make a film about their family. As a significant and subtle character - he never overshadows the turn of events - he guides them subtly.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt nostalgic for those early days when we first learned Barack Obama became President. I remember the hope - the pride - the joy .....
then the sadness which hit me as I read "The Golden House". I'm sure I didn't understand every single thing - Salman Rushdie is a challenging author to read ....but I was sincerely engaged. I laughed out loud many times. I was in 'aw' at Rushdie's brilliance other times.
I ended with 'sitting'...... sitting in a chair for 20 minutes- alone - quiet .... eyes watering..... just 'thinking'.
This is our world right now ---animated, theatrical- nutty - scary - confusing - with many people most comfortable isolating in their homes---while others are flamboyant outlandish socially active in the arts - sports -politics- and community. Love, fear, anger, hate... we live with it all. It's a sad beautiful world!

Enduring storytelling!!! This is Rushdie's best book since "Midnight Children".

Thank You Random House, Netgalley, and Salman Rushdie

Profile Image for David.
1,458 reviews
April 12, 2018
Die Golden Haus.

Salman Rushdie is a very brilliant man. A brilliant author. A man full of wit. A player of words. A great story teller. Perhaps even an elitist if one needed to use that word.

“..when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is elitist and they hate elites, and all you have ever had is your mind and you were brought up to believe in the loveliness of knowledge.” P. 359

But just a few sentences later he writes, “Lies can cause tragedies, both on the personal and national scale. Lies can defeat the truth. But the truth is dangerous too...Telling the truth can cost you what you love.” P. 359

This is a book about lies. It is the story of Nero Golden, who after a personal tragedy, up and leaves India with his three sons. They move to America to “start over.” Such an odd name. Not Golden, Nero. Yes, named after one of the last of the Roman emperors. You know the guy who “fiddled while Rome burns.” And his three sons are named after Roman figures including his middle son, Apu. Short for Lucius Apuleius, the guy who wrote the “Golden Ass,” one of the most memorable and funny romances in Roman literature. Hmm, I see where Mr. Rushdie is going. A comedy.

Enter René Unterlinden (the same famous strasse in Berlin, I assume?) born to Belgian parents becomes fascinated with the Goldens. His parents are both professors who speak with a pronounced German accent. Comedic effect, I believe. They all live in the same beautiful area, the Gardens in New York. They all live a privileged life. René wants to make a movie about the Goldens.

The move of the Goldens to America coincides with Obama’s election in 2008. As the novel progresses, the political change starts to overshadow the main characters as the lies are uncovered, the truth (what is truth in this book?) unravels and basically, everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

Or was that about the election of the Joker in 2016? Somewhere in the book, Washington DC is refered to as DC Comics. The fiction becomes a comic book. Rushdie refers to real events as a comic book? I do believe he is right whenever one hear the news these days.

At one point he refers to the Dark Knight Batman movie, where the Joker reveals his madness and everyone who supports him, show their madness. Wait a minute. This is really happening.

So the real world becomes a comic book; the fictional world becomes.... real. Really? I am not sure. Whatever Rushdie painted in this art mocking life/life mocking literature, I was truly amazed. Or confused.

That is okay because I think I figured it out. Or maybe it didn’t. But that is okay, because the storytelling is truly brilliant.

Or all a lie.

Shall I give it either five stars or no stars? Hmmm. Outrageous. The master comic of reality. Really.

Profile Image for Hugh.
1,272 reviews49 followers
June 13, 2019
An entertaining satire set in America, mostly in the Obama years, perhaps a little short of Rushdie's brilliant best, though he is always worth reading.

The Indian born oligarch at the centre of the story has renamed himself Nero Golden, and he has left India to seek refuge in New York along with his three sons. Early in the book the 70-something Nero meets and marries the scheming young Russian Vasilisa, and the family's decline and fall is narrated by René Unterlinden, a New York neighbour who becomes a trusted friend of the family, who is also an aspiring film maker who sees the Goldens as ideal subject matter for a film.

The plot mixes Greek tragedy and farce, and its satire spares very few, for example Trump becomes Batman's Joker. René seems to be contrived partly just to allow Rushdie space to talk at length about his favourite films from both East and West.
Profile Image for Evelina | AvalinahsBooks.
877 reviews445 followers
September 8, 2017
★★✬☆☆ 2.5 stars
Well... You never feel great when you are about to give a not-so-glowing review to a really well known, acclaimed writer's work. But the review's gotta be honest. So honest it will be. In fact, I've recently written a post about how to write a review for a book that you didn't like, when it happens to be famous. It wasn't inspired by The Golden House though!

Maybe it was wrong to request an ARC by Salman Rushdie when I've never read his work before (although I have another book of his, so I will be giving him another chance), but I was also so excited, particularly because I've never read his books. Now I'm just wondering – was it this one, or is it just his style I don't really like..? Anyway, here's what the book is about:

Despite most rich people being somewhat weird, the ones inhabiting The Golden House are even weirder. It's not that they've taken great care to hide where they've come from. The funniest thing about their secretiveness happens to be that they've given themselves complete Roman patrician names and pretty much believe themselves to be such. It's a complicated act which involved them believing it to become who they are. But our main character really wants to get to the bottom of it, and even make a movie about them. So he gets involved into their family tragedy, and probably a little deeper than he wanted to. And so the story rolls on...
The Golden House is crafted like a good, well-written classical tragedy – perhaps that's what I'd say if I knew my literary sciences. Which I don't, so I can just present a hunch that that's how it is. It kind of weaves together with their Roman "roots" and pretenses. However, I felt it extremely long winded. The biggest drawback for me in this book was its particular structure, which is more or less like this:

0-40%: main character introduces the entire neighbourhood and the Golden family. Nothing but epic foreshadowing is happening.
40-60%: enter some new characters. Drop some more hints. Nothing real is still going on.
60-80%: the book suddenly explodes with stuff going on and it finally engages me! This is where most of the tragedy happens.
80-100%: nothing... continues happening. There is a resolution, but it's very transparent and I feel like it didn't even need telling.

Basically? I felt like half the book was essentially about nothing.
However, some positive facts have to be mentioned. The book deals with the questions of identity, of gender and sex, understanding who you are, can and want to be. I felt like it was well dealt with, as it distills the essence of why some of us can't understand that physical sex and gender are not the same (or rather, we only try to think of it as the same because of our culture and tradition, but it's not the only culture or tradition in history). I really liked these diversity talks – it also helped me understand the sometimes complicated logic of all of that stuff, the whys and hows, and answer some questions about it for myself. Apart from that, there's the genius comparison of the current state of political affairs to what we all understand so well – pop culture – by referring to it as The United States of Joker. Where scalpel playing cards and lapel flowers squirting acid are fun. Isn't it genius? If anything, that's the one part the book is truly worth a read for!

In a nutshell? The Golden House is a modern history of a family's demise, almost in the classical tragedy tradition. However, it also seemed like a jumble of modern, interesting, smart ideas, but no reason to even have them there. Maybe I'm just not post-modern enough? Or literary enough? I always maintain that it's something I've missed , but I feel like The Golden House could have taken 40% of the pages and still said just as much. Most of the time it kind of bored me, to be honest. I'll be happy to read other people's reviews to see what they managed to find in it! My final verdict:

I thank Random House and Salman Rushdie for providing a digital review copy through NetGalley in exchange to an honest review. And while this book was not quite for me, maybe it is for you!

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Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
August 16, 2017
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this ARC!

I've always had Rushdie in my rear-view mirror it seems. He keeps cropping up everywhere and I always meant to read Satanic Verses for the big hubbub it made back in the day. You know, the whole assassination thing. And yet, I never actually got a round to reading him.

And then, out of the blue, I see a chance. Netgalley. I jumped on it and was pleasantly surprised to get it. And then I read my very first Rushdie.

Expectations are a tricky thing. I rather thought I was going to get a heavy literary novel full of references and mythology bubbling beneath the circus, if not surface, of the text. What I got was exactly that, but more-so, because I was engrossed in something so very readable and enjoyable that I never once had to really WORK at it. You know?

All the references myth were telegraphed as loudly as a classic Russian novel, the basic themes as loud as Bollywood musical, the pathos and the tragedy as distinctly American as a Mafia film.

Indeed, my own references were carefully considered and a careful reader will know what to expect if they pick this novel up. :)

It was pretty awesome, all told. The search and the apparent finding and confusion of identity is a very major theme, whether told as the story of Nero Golden, the patriarch, or through any of his sons who are as bright as those in Brothers Karamazov, or through the identity of our unreliable narrator, the house-guest and future filmmaker of the House of Golden.

But let me be honest here... I'd have read and enjoyed this novel just for the sequences about the rise of the Joker in politics. :) That stuff was GOLDEN.

And indeed, all of this was clever and fascinating and the looming tragedy of the family always kept me glued to the page as if I was rubbernecking a particularly bad auto accident. And it was beautiful. I don't know what that says about me, but I certainly love a good tragedy. It was lurid and fantastical and gaudy as if we were reading about Gatsby which, indeed, there was made multiple references.

Above all, this is a very modern book full of modern post-truth America and the lies that we see with our right eyes and the distorted truths of our left. I can honestly recommend this as a great and fun read. All those accolades that Rushdie seems to be getting are well deserved. He's one hell of a writer.
Profile Image for Lucy Banks.
Author 12 books292 followers
July 25, 2017
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The rise and fall of the Golden family, told through the 'post-truth' haze of US culture.

With an enigmatic title like that, I had no idea what to expect from Salman Rushdie's latest book. The first few pages, I was still none the wiser - then bam, after twenty pages or so, I was involved - and when I say involved, I mean completely mesmerised.

To briefly summarise the book (without giving too much away) - it follows a man who moves to the US under mysterious circumstances; a rich, bombastic man who goes by the name of Nero Golden. He arrives with his three sons, Petya (who is a sensitive, highly intelligent individual, on the autistic spectrum), Apu (a womanising artist) and D (the youngest, who is in search of his true identity).

They're followed through the eyes of Rene (or is that even his name... I was never quite sure, and I loved the ambiguity of this somewhat unreliable narrator) - a film-maker who is determined to make a movie based on the Golden family's life.

There's plenty to make a movie about. The sons have lovers, as captivating and intriguing as themselves. Nero ends up marrying a young Russian athlete / supermodel type, who also has the personality (quite literally) of a clever, ruthless witch. And soon, things start going badly wrong for the family - due largely to Nero's past misdeeds.

I loved so many aspects of this story. The beautiful weaving of myth, legend and ancient history, against the stark, yet sparkling backdrop of America, with the rise of 'The Joker' in the forthcoming election. I loved the characters - because they were so rich, so nuanced, and so unutterably fascinating. And the pathos came through loud and clear - there's a distinctive tragic element here that's almost Shakespearean at times.

Rene's frequent blurring of movie-plot and fact makes for an interesting read too - it seemed to be a reflection on today's post-truth culture... i.e. if we say a thing is true, then it is.

Overall, a staggeringly impressive book - so glad I got the opportunity to read it.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
296 reviews2,164 followers
October 30, 2017
Bombastic, overstuffed, kitchen sink of a novel. In a word, uneven. There are moments of brilliance and moments of tedium here.

Peppered liberally (VERY liberally) with references to film, art, music, mythology and literature ranging from the ancient world to pop culture, The Golden House will be a feast for some readers, exhausting for others.

For me, this book is at its best when at its most fanciful, incorporating myths and snippets from epic tales into the narrative. I also enjoyed Nero's nefarious backstory, when finally divulged, but it comes late in the novel and is by necessity, quite rushed.

The story takes place from 2008 to 2016 and touches on (very briefly) some of the most topical issues and events of the decade, including:
- Occupy Wall Street
- Gender identity politics
- Gamer gate
These were and are issues of utmost concern to the people involved with them but Rushdie here presents them merely as curiosities recounted by a disinterested outsider. They become a bit lifeless, like he's describing specimens under glass rather than the living beast. With so much crammed in to one book I guess there just wasn't room to do justice to all of it.

Then there's the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, which serves as not much more than colourful set dressing. This garish backdrop is far more interesting than the Gatsby-ish story playing out in the foreground.

Passages of the book are astute, even incisive, in particular the soliloquies on our polarised, post-factual, digital age. But these observations didn't provoke in me much of a reaction beyond "hmm, yes, that's very well observed". It's all about our current moment, a moment which is so fraught, yet the words feel sort of bloodless. Where's the sting in this tale?

This is sounding like a very critical review, but I don't really mean it that way. I really did enjoy the book. But I also felt the ghost of something better in the pages and so my expectations ran high. Really good elements mixing with some disappointment to average out at three stars.
Profile Image for Geevee.
359 reviews209 followers
April 12, 2021
DNF. After 25% I gave up. It became, after an fairly engaging start, a plodding, leaden narrative devoid of substance and excitement told through the eyes of a neighbour,

The characters were everything that the literary world seems to desire or must have in the 2020s: three adult sons who are between them reclusive, agoraphobic, repressed, alcoholic, transgender/no gender and all are under the father character of Nero, who is greedy, tyrannical and powerful.

Although they could have become interesting, the characters were and the story was dull, formulaic, and it failed to come alive through a the soporific and uninteresting René. The story was trying to be clever to support the underlying thread of Mr Rushdie's disappointment and anger at an America that elected Trump, but for this reader the approach and the flat narrative failed to deliver on the blurb's promise of The Golden House also marks Salman Rushdie’s triumphant and exciting return to realism .
Profile Image for P..
461 reviews114 followers
August 22, 2017
Gratitude (and, tons of it!) is owed to NetGalley, Random House, and Salman Rushdie for the ARC. My very first ARC and it’s a RUSHDIE novel! Kindly indulge my victory pirouette before we proceed.

As the inhabitants of a particularly depressing timescape (two weeks after I finished this book, Charlottesville happened!)– this epoch that marks the re-emergence of mainstream fascism, glorification of bigotry, justification of intolerance and vacillation of the entire planet towards right-wing fanaticism, we have very limited options when it comes to seeking solace from the cacophony of terrifying voices loaded with hatred. And The Golden House provides just that!

After his previous outing with the explosive 2Y8M28N that fantastically traversed the dizzying clouds of magical realism, Salman Rushdie has landed in the land of realism with The Golden House – an almost-bespoke novel for the contemporary America that spans across the past decade and anatomizes every issue that managed to capture its collective consciousness. Conspicuous in its dearth of Rushdie’s signature wordplay and elements of magical realism, The Golden House could easily be mistaken to be another writer’s. But if you are a Rushdie fanboy, you’d be comforted by his evident love of parables and the frequent parallels to Greek mythology scattered throughout the book. This book would appeal to those who’d wanted to try Rushdie but were discouraged by the complexity of his earlier novels and even to those who hated his style. Rushdie tries on a new skin in this more-conventional novel where he retains his sheer genius without the whirling prose that may be intimidating to some. Rushdie fans get to see a different avatar of his; hesitant readers get to sunbathe in his delicious writing that’s stripped off the elements they may not desire.

The Golden Family comprises the puissant septuagenarian patriarch Nero Golden and his three sons who relocate to New York from an unspecified country (Guess!), haunted by a mysterious past that they’re hell-bent on concealing. The story is narrated by an aspiring filmmaker who’s on a desperate prowl for stories and finds his treasure in the Goldens who move to his posh neighborhood that is fondly referred to as The Gardens. Their precious past is slowly unraveled as he grows closer to the Golden Men and his dream project materializes as he peels off their façade layer by layer. Rushdie meshes the story of the Goldens with the history of America before, during & after Obama’s rule, Greek mythology, philosophizing and his commentary on American culture. The resulting product is colorful, captivating and extremely relevant in today’s world.

Echoes of Rushdie’s previous novels can be frequently picked up in this story – especially Midnight’s Children and Fury. Identity is one of the most important themes here, with Goldens expurgating their original identities to escape their crushing past and one of the characters undergoing gender transition. A very memorable passage in the book draws a beautiful parallel between a person undergoing gender transition and Gregor Samsa’s despair in Metamorphosis.

At times The Golden House felt like an American version of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, chronicling the cultural and political issues consuming a whole nation; but narrated from the perspective of a wealthier, more selfish narrator. As we are carried forward from the election of Obama to the 2016 elections to Brexit to Aadhar cards, we are worried if these contemporary novels driven by concern for this depressing world are too obsessed with the NOW to make any sense in the future. Would this be remembered as well as Midnight’s Children in twenty years? Is present contemporaneity bought at the cost of future’s?
Profile Image for Alex.
482 reviews107 followers
October 19, 2017
The book starts well - good and solid characters, interesting development of the story. Rushdie discusses about identity in many forms - sexual, national. Then there are interesting forms of delivering the story, different types of narration.
Ok those were the 2 stars. actually, after 60% of the book, i was convinced this book is a 5 stars one.
The problem is, the remaining 40% couldnt save it and actually made the whole story worse. Rushdie literally killed his book. There is so much nonsense in the last part, a lot of pointless writing about trump and hillary clinton and the indian mafia. there is no magical story, there are really bad allegories and comparisions. And for all - boring as hell. This last part is actually the worst i ever read from Rushdie. A real dissapoinment.
As with other books I read this year, this one could have had so much potential.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,300 followers
September 30, 2017
In these our cowardly times, we deny the grandeur of the Universal, and assert and glorify our local Bigotries, and so we cannot agree on much. In these our degenerate times, men bent on nothing but vainglory and personal gain— hollow, bombastic men for whom nothing is off-limits if it advances their petty cause— will claim to be great leaders and benefactors, acting in the common good, and calling all who oppose them liars, envious, little people, stupid people, stiffs, and, in a precise reversal of the truth, dishonest and corrupt. We are so divided, so hostile to one another, so driven by sanctimony and scorn, so lost in cynicism, that we call our pomposity idealism, so disenchanted with our rulers, so willing to jeer at the institutions of our state, that the very word goodness has been emptied of meaning and needs, perhaps, to be set aside for a time, like all the other poisoned words, spirituality, for example, final solution, for example, and (at least when applied to skyscrapers and fried potatoes) freedom.

Salman Rushdie’s mid-career novels, the Ground Beneath Her Feet and Fury were, in my view, not even close to the standard of his earlier works, and I know several fellow readers rather gave up on him at that point. But, as someone who persisted, Shalimar the Clown was powerful (and remains significantly underappreciated, largely as interest had diminished), The Enchantress of Florence delightful if somewhat whimsical, and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights a wonderful story about the power of stories.

I concluded my review of the latter (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... “but trademark mannerisms aside, Rushdie is one of our finest writers, and the novel also showcases his wonderfully fertile imagination and his exuberant and yet erudite prose.”

Or as the narrator of Golden House puts it:

I offer this brief CV now so that the reader may feel in good hands, the hands of a credible and not inexperienced storyteller, as my narrative acquires what will be increasingly lurid characteristics.

Unfortunately if Shalimar the Clown was a stunning return to form Golden House is a severe relapse. Rushdie is always simultaneously entertaining and frustrating but here the scales, at least for me, tipped the wrong way.

The Golden House contains far too many topics I don’t really care about, but more generally important, ones when Rushdie really has little to add but where he seems to have felt obliged, by his (deserved) status as a Great Novelist to opine.

In terms of where I had little interest, Rushdie very effectively uses the Rear Window-esque device of having his narrator, René Unterlinden, being something of a voyeur into the lives of the family of Nero Golden. He then takes a meta-fictional approach, where René is himself writing a fictionalised version on what he sees: except Rushdie decided it would be more effective / original to have René be making a film rather than a book:
For a while I went along with [him being a writer] and suddenly I woke up and thought that’s a terrible idea. It would be better for him to be anything else — a dentist, an accountant, anything, so I thought, okay, he’s not a writer, so what is he? And the minute the idea that he was a filmmaker showed up it actually released something in the writing of the book.
(see http://www.thehindu.com/books/intervi...).

As the narrator says, it’s an interesting attempt to maybe mix up the genres, be a little genrequeer (that word the first sign of Rushdie foraying into areas he would have been better leaving alone) but it means that while literary references are certainly present, the novel is really aimed more at film buffs than book fans, with the narrative dominated by recollections and reflections of movie scenes (almost none of which I have seen).

This also feels like an attempt to write that mythical thing Great American Novel (or at least The Great New York Novel) – but I’m not sure I’d want to read it even if it did exist. One of Rushdie’s key points is how the events around Trump’s election had led to an America torn in half, its defining myth of a city-on-a-hill exceptionalism lying trampled in the gutters of bigotry and racial and male supremacism, but that myth needed little trampling outside of the country.

And indeed this seems more to The Great A Very Small Part of New York Novel, the book dedicated to the people who introduced him to a particularly exclusive piece of New York real estate, the Macdougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/fa...) – I’m sure the detailed descriptions are highly fascinating to the 50 or so people that live there.

As for topics, where Rushdie has nothing to add, for no particularly apparent reason, the novel features, purely in the background and of little relevance to the real story, the appearance of a caricature of Donald Trump, a property tycoon cum liberal-baiting Presidential candidate:

Gary “Green” Gwynplaine, a vulgarian whose name Nero could not bring himself to speak, and who liked to call himself the Joker on account of having been born with inexplicably lime-green hair. Purple-coated, white-skinned, red-lipped, Gwynplaine made himself the mirror image of the notorious cartoon villain and seemed to revel in the likeness.

Albeit one does wonder whether this book was read as research in North Korea as at one point an ageing and increasingly mentally impotent character (albeit not the Joker) lets out as "impotent dotard's shriek"!

And Rushdie’s foray into identity politics ( “What is it? All this language stuff. The 73 pronouns, all of that. I’m a writer, I should know this” – see https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...) is as ill-advised as Ian McEwan’s in Nutshell, another author who I suspect felt obliged by his status to enter the fray.

The shame is that all of this rather overshadows the underlying story of Nero Golden and his family, which presents the immigrant experience into New York:
People who are born-and-raised New Yorkers are very proud of the fact. And rightly so. That’s the kind of New York novel that is not mine to write. But I know that most of us who live here were not born here. So much of the story of New York is the story of arrival, the story of people coming from elsewhere, and I thought that’s a story that I can tell. This was a very, very deliberate attempt to write a sort of immigrant novel of New York.

And the parts of the novel that tell Nero Golden’s back story, taking in the Mumbai underworld and the Nov 26 2008 and Mar 12 1993 terrorism attacks, was fascinating, with Rushdie demonstrating his tight control over his revelations (Patience. I will not reveal all my secrets at once).

The story contains Rushdie’s trade-mark blend of fantasy and realism: the narrator notes early on that in Roman times (from which Nero Golden takes his assumed name), a golden story “was a figure of speech that denoted a tall tale, a wild conceit, something that was obviously untrue.”

Indeed it is almost a relief to see Rushdie’s signature touches, such as his delight in naming characters:

There was a man called Don Corleone. No, of course that wasn't his name, but his name will mean nothing to you. Even the name he actually uses wasn't his name either. A name is nothing, it's a handle, as they say here, just a way of opening a door. 'Don Corleone' gives you an idea of the kind of man he was.

Or per the authorial interview in The Hindu:
I love naming. I think it’s something to do with coming from our part of the world, where we think about the meaning of names. We don’t just name children because it’s a name that’s in the family or because we like the sound of it. We give some form to what the name means and what its echoes are. So, I use that same technique for naming fictional characters. The two writers I admire for their naming are Charles Dickens and Saul Bellow. Uriah Heep! You already know who he is before he’s even opened his mouth. You know who he is!
And his terrible puns. One incidental character bore more than a passing resemblance to the retired Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. This was the individual charged with the task of rescuing Petya from his fear of open spaces. Petya's hypnotherapist. His name was Murray Lett. 'If you call me, it's not a fault,' he liked to say, a tennis joke that only served (ouch) to increase his resemblance to the former Australian star.

He even throws in stereotypical dialogue: the narrator’s Belgian parents speak with cod Belgian accents ("a world vissout mystery iss like a picture vis no shadows ... it shows you nossing") and have a shrine to Eddy Merckx, Magritte and Audrey Hepburn (an excuse for Rushdie to instruct us that she was born Edda van Heemstra), and our Australian tension coach speaks in strine (except Rushdie seems to have got confused with South African "Virry well, thanks. I had ivry confidence")

But by the novel’s end I felt rather like the narrator who, at one point, overwhelmed by the story declares:

All I wanted to do was put my fingers in my ears and shout la la la la la.

And yet, when his next novel comes out, I will be first in the queue to buy it.
July 25, 2017
In this Salman Rushdie story, we meet the Golden family, a family of Immigrants whose patriarch comes to America with unlimited wealth, three sons renamed with Roman names, and a nefarious background which is explored by a neighbor of the Goldens. Nero, the family's head is a billionaire and his sons Petya, Abu, and D all of whom have issues that seem to ruin their lives and determine their destiny. Into this arena of tortured souls comes an erstwhile filmmaker, Rene, who is the narrator of the family's tale. He is besotted with them and becomes a teller of their lives while becoming further meshed into it. Nero is a bachelor until he meets and marries the devious Vasilisa. She knows that in order to ingratiate herself further into Nero's graces she needs to produce an heir. Nero, a septuagenarian, is unable to father another child so Vasilisa tricks him into believing he can and does become pregnant through the help of Rene, who is quite willing to be of service.

The family excites the residents of the small enclave in which they live while Rene's pursuit of them becomes almost one of a stalker. However, as he ingratiates himself into this family, he also finds himself in the midst of their crimes, their struggles, and their infidelities.

As the story unfurls, we often find ourselves becoming exactly like Rene. Mr Rushdie is able through his writing to make the reader become Rene and look for the lascivious nature of the people he purports to care about. Here is where the story for this reader took steps backwards. In the telling this reader found very few if any characters to like. Added to the whole story is the backdrop of politics which seemed to be more of a rant by the author on his political stance. I found that it added nothing to the story since politically speaking the Goldens had little to do with politics as they tried to maintain the mysteries surrounding themselves. If Mr Rushdie had kept to his characters, this novel would have in my estimation been excellent. Instead it became a pedantic tale with his political feelings making up the weakness of the novel.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,910 reviews248 followers
August 30, 2017
This is the tale of an immigrant family, the Goldens, who come to America in 2008 and buy a mansion in a gated community of Art Deco homes. The backyards of the homes of the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District form a park-like setting--"a private, magic little place in the middle of downtown NY."

They arrive in the city just as President Obama is being inaugurated, which ushers in a period of hope for the country. The head of the family calls himself Nero Julius Golden and his three adult sons are Petronius, Apuleius, and Dionysus--obviously adopted names. Where have they come from and what is their history? How had they become so wealthy? And what has happened to their mother? These are all mysteries to be debated by the curious neighbors.

One such neighbor, Rene Unterlinden, a young would-be auteur, is the story's narrator. He decides to do a film about the family and, during the next ten years, befriends them, observes them and plans the scenes he will use for his debut work he will call The Golden House.

Things begin to fall apart for the family, as each son has a fatal flaw and the father's sins begin to catch up with him. Is this karma at work? Kismet? Fate? In that way, this story is a morality tale. And Rushdie pictures America's future falling apart too as a new 'king' is elected--a clown he refers to as 'the Joker.'

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for allowing me access to an arc of Rushdie's latest book. So thrilled to be given the opportunity!
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
590 reviews150 followers
June 2, 2018
For whatever reason, short stories are looked down upon in today's literary world. Nevermind that some of history's greatest authors - from Chekov to Zweig to Hemingway - made their names largely as writers of short stories. And while accomplished novelists occasionally still put out a short story collection, they don't make a habit of it because shorter stories are sneered at by a literary community that believes an author who writes them does so only because he or she can't write a novel.

It's that sort of nonsense that gives us books like "The Golden House" - a novel that might have made a fine 70-page story but is instead a pretentious, almost unreadable 370-page one. I certainly didn't care about the family at the center of the story because it's clear Rushdie doesn't care about them. They're merely characters filling pages to make a novel so Rushdie can espouse on what he really wants to write about - the current cultural and political climate in the U.S.

It's not hard to envision Rushdie looking on with horrified amusement as we all were at the ascension to the throne of U.S. politics of a man as vulgar and certifiably insane as Donald Trump.

"How can I make a story out of this?" He must have wondered. "How can I create a novel out of what would fill an essay or short story?"

So out comes this absurd, bloated tale about a man who comes to America with his three sons in the hope of leaving his past behind.

Full disclosure: I read about 70 pages of this before skimming the remaining 300. I would have stopped after the 70 and just left it, but I knew Rushdie was onto something with his portrayal of Trump - never mentioned by name - as "the joker" in the comic book universe that is modern-day America. Rushdie's pen has never bled venom as sweet as it does when focused on the chaos of the 2016 election. If only it wasn't for all the pretentious drivel that those few sections are buried under ...

The Nick Carraway-esque narrator is a wannabe hotshot Hollywood director, so the classic film references fly fast and furious. But not only those. This twenty-something narrator, who never feels like a fully developed character so much as a blabbermouth encyclopedia that won't shut up, references anything and everything, sometimes multiple times in a single paragraph.

When it's not a film reference it's literature or music. Bach is mentioned in the same breath as the Russian mythological old-witch-who-lives-in-the-forest Baba Yaga, as Rembrandt's "Night Watch", as the peculiarities of Somali pronunciation, as the name of an arrow in Sanskrit, as Borsalino hats - which, Rushdie informs us, are very popular among Orthodox Jews.

Does it matter that these references are almost never related to the story Rushdie is half-heartedly telling? Of course not, because this isn't René Unterlinden - the 20-something-year-old narrator - talking, it's Rushdie, making sure we all know how much he knows.

It's typical of Rushdie to projectile vomit all this pointless knowledge, needlessly complicating the text. There is no reader alive able to grasp all these references without turning to Google. That's what makes Rushdie's books so characteristically dense. Rushdie would never dream of simplifying things by, say, leaving out the information about the Somali pronunciation because, gasp, he wouldn't want Trump voters reading his books.

Rushdie belongs to the class of writer who believes that the more unintelligible a book is, the better. God forbid it's read on the beach or is less than 300 pages! Now, occasionally Rushdie has shown that he's capable of such a good tale that I don't mind.

The magical realism in which he writes many of his stories, like "The Enchantress of Florence", often carries me away. His bombastic, somewhat stylized writing fits well in that genre. The problem with such writing being set in the real world is that there's nothing real about it.

Don't come knocking at the "The Golden House" - there's no one home.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,488 reviews2,706 followers
July 21, 2017
4.5 stars

'The best had lost all conviction and the worst were filled with passionate intensity'

It's been a while since I've enjoyed a Rushdie novel as much as this one. If you're looking, though, for a linear, coherent piece of storytelling (does anyone come to Rushdie for that?) then this might be unsatisfying. Instead it's a brilliant, exuberant piece of writing, all fireworks and brazen juggling of allusions: historical, filmic, literary.

From the appropriations of Roman history and culture (Nero, Apuleius, Petronius, Ovid) to the final splitting apart of Yeats' 'The Second Coming' ('and the creature out of Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington, D.C., to be born), this reclaims art from the ravages of the financial elite currently dissing intellectual culture as 'elitist'.

The fall of the house of Golden takes place in the space between the first election of Obama and the recent election of Trump, figured here as the Joker ('he was utterly and certifiably insane... America had left reality behind and entered the comic-book universe'), and ends with a fire that is also a warning: ('Hail Caesar. Remember Nero the last of his line').

I don't want to say anything about the plot so far in advance of publication (thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC) but will suggest that this is Rushdie showing all his sides to advantage: playful, intellectual, sharp, despairing, tentatively hopeful. Definitely a must-read of summer 2017.
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