Haroun and the Sea of Stories
by Salman Rushdie
Illustrated by Paul Birkbeck
The hard back, large print edition I borrowed has intriguing, fantastic little pictures dotted over it, which is what initially caught my attention. The illustrations by Birkbeck throughout are beautiful and exquisitely detailed.
This well paced work needs no illustrations but they are a perfect accompaniment. They do enhance the reading experience - like a nice biscuit or three to dunk makes a well brewed cup of tea something morish! The story telling is so vivid that you may well imagine something to match Birbeck's art. He has certainly read the book since his art is true to it both overall and in detail. My only quibble with the illustrations is that a couple of the full colour, full page ones of plot events preceeded the text to accompany them - thus spoiling the surprise.
I have only heard of Salman Rushdie as a fugitive, a free speaker and an author of repute. I had not read a single one of his works until now. It is something I will definitely look into. I came to this book with fresh eyes and can see what all the fuss is about.
Finely written in the tradition of the Arabian Nights tales, this is classic, exotic, storytelling gold. A first class read, it's full of texture, magic and diversity of characters with a gentle peppering of humour for young and old. I appreciated it as a pure fantasy work separate from our world. However it does have relevant messages about freedom of speech, understanding, peace, imagination, the value of traditional culture, and the power of the people - all deftly woven with a subtle strength on a foundation established early in the book. As Haroun realises, that is the point of stories that aren't true: you are entertained and your thoughts are provoked.