Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

It's not that I forget this book between readings of it, Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, it's not. When I get into conversations about good books to read, an occupational hazard that occurs an awful lot, I do remember to tell people - usually - that Haroun is worth the price of admission.

But you know, then I read the thing again, and I'm impressed all over again. There are some negative reviews out there that call it predictable, and it's not wrong to call it that, but I'm with Samuel Johnson, who said about the gripping 1500-page Clarissa that if you read it for the plot, you'd hang yourself. If the rest of the stars align, then I'm OK with predictable. After all, this is the fourth or fifth time I've read Haroun, so I'm really, really not surprised by the plot anymore, and I enjoy it more each time I read it.

Here are the opening two paragraphs:
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.

In the north of the sad city stood mighty factories in which (so I'm told) sadness was actually manufactured, packaged, and sent all over the world, which never seemed to get enough of it. Black smoke poured out of the chimneys of the sadness factories and hung over the city like bad news.
The next paragraph introduces Haroun and his father, and, well, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Trust me on this one.

My daughter isn't ready to hear me read it aloud yet, but if your child is, my goodness, what a treat you're both in for. There are a few points that might be trouble (the bus driver early on, for example, who points out the scenes of particularly gruesome crashes - and whose name is sure to be a kid favourite, Mr. Butt), but there aren't many points where junior might need a wee edit. The joys, too, far outweigh them, and maybe you should save the book for yourself anyway, so you don't have to slow down and explain anything!

(And yes, Clarissa really is gripping. Forty or fifty fun, fun hours of reading. Trust me on that one, too, but you might find Haroun a better fit for your lifestyle.)


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