“There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.”
Thus opens Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Written for his eldest son, the novel takes the protagonist Haroun, son of Rashid and Soraya Khalifa, from this saddest of cities on to a magical world. Rashid — a famous story teller known as the “Ocean of Notions” to his admirers and the “Shah of Blah” to his rivals — loses his ability to entertain the masses when his wife reveals her unhappiness in their marriage. While the premise may seem depressing, Rushdie is a crafter of stories capable of walking in both the whimsical and more serious realms of literature.
Through a magical connection to the Sea of Stories — from which Rashid claims he garners inspiration — Haroun finds himself the lead on a challenging adventure to find his parents, as well as his town, the happiness they need to prosper. Complete with water genies, princes and princesses, as well as a talking walrus, this book is a true delight.
The best part of this coming-of-age story is the witty narration and creativity of Rushdie. I would highly recommend this book for pre-teens, teenagers and adults alike. If you have yet to read any of Rushdie’s work (his novels are much, much different) I would recommend starting with this book, followed with Luka and the Fire of Life — written for his second-born son.