Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie is just the kind of book I would have loved to read as a child. A brilliant modern take on the Tales of the Arabian Nights, Haroun is a smashing read, by turns funny, scary and exciting.

Haroun is the son of a story-teller who one day, following his wife's elopement with the next-door neighbour, loses his ability to tell stories. Haroun desperately wants to help his Dad and the opportunity arises when he surprises Iff, the water-genie, in the process of disconnecting his father's story supply. So begins an adventure in which Haroun is whisked off to the Kingdom of Kahani, and the Ocean of Stories where he makes new friends in the noble mechanical hoopoe, Butt, the feisty page Blabbermouth, and Mali, the gardener. But the Ocean is in danger, it is being poisoned by the evil Khattam-Shud, and his minions, who are determined to end story telling forever. Can Haroun and his friends save the day?

I thoroughly enjoyed this - as a childrens' book (Rushdie wrote it for his son Zafar, not long after the fatwa had been imposed on him following the publication of The Satanic Verses), it's great - exciting, fun, sometimes sad (I found the hoopoe especially poignant), exotic - it has all the elements of the Arabian Nights Tales that I loved so much as a child. As an adult coming to it for the first time, there are lots of much more grown-up elements that can be picked out of it - a concern for ecology and the environment, and a plea for freedom of speech - not surprising when you consider the circumstances under which Haroun was written.

I just loved the novel - having failed to get through any of Rushdie's novels so far, I feel inspired to return to them having read this wonderful, magical book.


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