Closely Observed Trains on a Sea Coast in Bohemia

Christopher Tayler

  • The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
    Cape, 370 pp, £18.99, September 2017, ISBN 978 1 78733 015 3

Some people don’t like the idea that they may be living in a metropolitan bubble, but René Unterlinden, the narrator of Salman Rushdie’s latest book, has been raised to call the bubble his home. ‘De point is,’ his father – not the only character in the novel with a comic accent – tells him, ‘we like de bubble, and so do you … So dis iss who you are … The boy in the bubble.’ ‘These are days of miracle and wonder,’ his mother adds. René’s parents are Belgian-born New Yorkers, ‘respected scholars’, ‘beloved teachers’ and ‘Americans since forever’, and he has grown up ‘cocooned in liberal downtown silk’ in a place he calls ‘the Gardens’, a block of houses and mansions built round a communal garden in the West Village: ‘At the heart of the bubble were the Gardens and the Gardens gave the bubble a heart.’ He ‘went to school at Little Red and to college on Washington Square’, where he seems to have majored in film studies. When the novel opens, in January 2009, with Barack Obama and ‘his exceptional wife’ about to enter the White House, he is in his mid-twenties and in search of a subject for a screenplay he plans to write.

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