Wow. The Enchantress of Florence is one of those books that I would go out of my way and recommend. It’s just a gem of good writing, and the reader would definitely be put under a spell as he reads this magnificent piece of work. This is the second book of Salman Rushdie's that I have read. Like The Satanic Verses, I have enjoyed reading this one as well.
It tells the tale of Niccolo Vespucci, a golden-haired wanderer who happens to visit the royal court of Emperor Akbar, the ruler of the Mughal Empire. The setting is Fatehpur Sikri, and Vespucci seeks an audience with the emperor to tell him a story. This story is intricate, and concerns a relative of the Emperor, which, if true, will make the Italian visitor more than a simple visitor.
This is told to the reader as well. Thus, this is a book that contains a story within a story. This is where the enchantress of Florence appears. The enchantress turns out to be a lost princess, originating from the royal Mughal court, but somehow, due to wars and battles that were won and lost, this princess was passed on to various different kingdoms until she eventually ends up in Florence.
I have decided not to give a more detailed synopsis here. That's because I'd rather leave the pleasure of reading it to the reader who might pick up this.
The story is written in a post-modern style, employing the frame narrative. Every chapter is a story in itself, and each chapter functions as a little piece that belongs to a larger scenario. Instead of narrating the story in a linear unidirectional fashion, where the end of one chapter is the beginning of another chapter, the frame narrative actually engages the reader, as I found myself flipping back to previous chapters, trying to integrate them with the current chapter, seeing how these pieces of the puzzle fit together in the grand scheme of things.
There's also an element of magical realism. Plenty of fantastic and magical things happen in this book. Perhaps that is the charm of Salman Rushdie, as I remember The Satanic Verses to be written in a similar fashion, employing magical realism and frame narratives.