Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Then the thing happened, the Unthinkable Thing. Rashid went out on to the stage in front of that vast jungle of a crowd, and Haroun watched from the wings - and the poor storyteller opened his mouth, and the crowd squealed in excitement - and now Rashid Khalifa, standing there with his mouth hanging open, found that it was as empty as his heart.

Set somewhere in the land of Aladdin and Sinbad, Haroun lives in a city so sad that it had forgotten its own name. The people had forgotten how to laugh or smile, and even the fish that lived in the nearby sea were called glumfish. In this land of the sad, Haroun's father, Rashid, was the cheerful storyteller, whose never-ending stream of tales made people either very happy or very jealous. One day, Rashid's wife runs away with the neighbor, leaving Rashid heart-broken and incapable of making new stories, and Haroun unable to concentrate on anything for longer than eleven minutes. On the eve of a possible career- and life-destroying performance at a political rally, Rashid and Haroun fret about their bad luck when a genie appears in Haroun's bathroom.

The edition I read actually has this less interesting cover, but I love the exuberant display on the above cover, plus it gives a face to all the myriad names and characters I came through in this book. I picked Haroun and the Sea of Stories, just to "sample" it. I had a feeling that I will not be able to even grasp the Rushdieness of this book, however innocent the title sounded. Funnily, if I were told to read the book and guess the author later, Rushdie would have been nowhere in the list of possible candidates, as this book was as different as possible from what I remember of my attempt at reading Midnight's Children.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories felt like a whiff of lively breeze. Reading this book made me remember the joy of reading magical books like Harry Potter and The Night Circus. While not as long or as atmospheric, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserves its own place on that shelf of fascinating fantasy books. Although the fantasy in this book does have symbolic meanings and a few "moral of the stories", one could read this book for pure pleasure and nothing more.

I loved the magical world within this book, even though I felt it a touch overdone at points. Occasionally, Haroun comes across people or things in the fantasy world that reminds him of someone or something in his real world - I loved the implication that the two worlds need not be disparate. You need stories in the real world, just as you need reality in stories. The writing slips once in a while into an awkward childish tone, but for the most part, I found it engaging. Children and adults alike could enjoy this book.

I read Haroun and the Sea of Stories for Aarti's A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour, for which I am totally grateful, because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have read this book (at least within the next five years), if not for the tour (and for the fact that my library had a copy of the book). I don't know if this makes me want to read more Salman Rushdie right away, but I'm definitely eager to read some of these speculative fiction books - 47, The Hakawati, Kindred, and more!

I borrowed this book from the library.

16 comments:

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

That description is not at all what I would expect from a Rushdie novel. This one might be too fantastical for me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Rushdie is usually a little too recondite for me, but I love the cover and the magical part sounds interesting - I might try this one!

zibilee said...

I loved Midnight's Children, but had a harder time with some of his other stuff. It sounds like this was a hit with you though, so I will be looking out for it. I love stories that can enchant both the young and the older audience, and would love to pick this one up. It sounds like there is a lot here to love. Excellent review today!

Liviania said...

I always wondered how Rushdie's style would work for a younger audience. But I guess it's totally different from his other stuff! Sounds good.

neal call said...

I'm sold. I'ma read this one.

Rachel said...

This is IS very different from Rushdie's other books...but I thought it was fantastic. Good review!

gavin said...

Great review. This is one of my favorite books. Luka and the Lake of Fire is the sequel.

Aarti said...

I LOVED The Hakawati, so I hope you read that one soon. It's a fascinating look at the Arabian Nights and I was thoroughly engaged by it.


This book sounds like one I'd enjoy, though I'm glad to know the parts that you didn't love about it. I wonder if you read the sequel, if you would appreciate this book more? Sometimes that seems to happen.

Helen Murdoch said...

I am totally intimidated by Rushdie, so it is great to hear this is accessible and enjoyable!

Kim Ukura said...

I tried to read a Rushdie book for the tour, but mine was not nearly as enjoyable. I wish I had picked this one up instead, it sounds charming!

Laura said...

I'm glad to hear you liked this - I also attempted to read "Midnight's Children" and was bored to tears. I will give this one a try!

My Diverse review, if you're interested: http://rubybastille.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/more-diverse-universe-review-of-tales-from-outer-suburbia/

Amy McKie said...

Thanks for this review. It's on my list of books I want to read eventually, and you've certainly moved it up the priority list!

Ryan said...

Cool! This is one of the very few Rushdie books I have yet to read. Now I'm wondering why I have waited so long.

Diane said...

WOW..look at the cool cover. Can you believe I have not seen this anywhere before. Obviously, I've been living in a cave it appears:)

Buried In Print said...

You make this one sound irresistible: I'm inspired! I've picked it up many times, but just haven't taken the plunge yet (none of the editions I've seen have that invitingly colourful cover either though)!

Nishita said...

This is one of my favorite Rushdie. It was the first one I read and I just fell in love with his writing. Have you read the sequel? I have yet to try it, I am sure that will be enjoyable as well :)