Salman Rushdie’s newest novel The Golden House is a modern American epic set against the panorama of contemporary politics and culture—a hurtling, page-turning mystery that is equal parts The Great Gatsby and The Bonfire of the Vanities.
On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, whose rambling soliloquies are the curse of 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. As research for 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 the standard-bearer of our dark new age.
Praise for The Golden House
“Rushdie returns with a topical, razor-sharp portrait of life among the very rich, who are, of course, very different from the rest of us. Where Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities sent up the go-go, me-me Reagan/Bush era, Rushdie’s latest novel captures the existential uncertainties of the anxious Obama years. Indeed, its opening sentence evokes the image of the newly inaugurated president ‘as he walked hand in hand with his exceptional wife among the cheering crowds,’ even as our narrator, shellshocked like everyone else in that time of plunging markets and ballooning mortgages, worried that assassination was the inevitable outcome. Against this backdrop arrives a mysterious immigrant who has taken for himself what he imagines to be a suitably aspirational name: Nero Golden. So beguiling is Golden that, tucked away in a secret palace in a New York affordable only to the very wealthy, he proves an instant lure for our narrator, a filmmaker in search of a subject. Each member of the Golden household harbors secrets, sexual and financial and criminal, but the plot thickens considerably when a Russian arriviste, ‘Vasilisa the Fair,’ inserts herself into the Goldens’ world, ticking down a checklist of all the pleasures she can provide for Nero given the proper options package: ‘You see the categories are ten, fifteen, twenty,’ she tells Golden of her monthly allowance needs. ‘I recommend generosity.’ It seems clear we are not meant to think of Obama but of his successor, whose election closes the book and who gives us Rushdie’s decidedly unfunny, decidedly unironic condemnation of an ‘America torn in half, its defining myth of city-on-a-hill exceptionalism lying trampled in the gutters of bigotry and racial and male supremacism, Americans’ masks ripped off to reveal the Joker faces beneath.’ A sort of Great Gatsby for our time: everyone is implicated, no one is innocent, and no one comes out unscathed, no matter how well padded with cash.” —Starred Kirkus Review
Praise for Salman Rushdie
“A glittering novelist—one with startling imaginative and intellectual resources, a master of perpetual storytelling.” —The New Yorker
“[A] writer of courage, impressive strength . . . and sheer stylistic brilliance.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire in Candide, Sterne in Tristram Shandy . . . [Rushdie] is very much a latter-day member of their company.” —The New York Times Book Review
“One of the major literary voices of our time.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Rushdie’s synthesizing energy, the way he brings together ancient myth and old story, contemporary incident and archetypal emotion, transfigures reason into a waking dream.” —Los Angeles Times
“The most original imagination writing today.” —Nadine Gordimer
“Rushdie is our Scheherazade.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian
“Everywhere he takes us there is both love and war, in strange and terrifying combinations, painted in swaying, swirling, world-eating prose that annihilates the borders between East and West, love and hate, our private lives and the history we make.” —Time