With this tremendous novel Salman Rushdie – soaring, swooping – lifts himself free of his contemporaries. The plot may be difficult to describe, but not its effect. It is suspenseful. It is playful. It is compassionate. And while the conditions of its authorship ought not to bear on a reader’s appreciation, they might explain the concentrated force of its energy. With Islam’s pistol at his temple, Rushdie could have suborned fiction into a weapon, to rage against his plight. But he hasn’t. He has written a love story. A wonderful, devastating love story.