W.W. Norton & Company, $24.95, 341 pages
Hassan, the “Storyteller of Marrakesh”, sets up every night in the Jemaa el Fna, Marrakesh’s legendary square. Each evening he captures the minds of his audience as he weaves tales in the ancient storytelling tradition passed down from father to son. The disappearance of a young foreign couple is a story everyone wants to hear.
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s The Storyteller of Marrakesh tells of a night that Hassan enchants his audience with the mystery and invites them to contribute their stories so they can piece together the truth of what happened. Everyone the couple encounters is a suspect, but none more than Hassan’s younger brother Mustafa, who sits in jail for a crime he did not commit. With each new contradicting contribution, the “facts” become muddier and the “truth” becomes hazy.
The author’s talent for describing Morocco, Marrakesh, and the Jemaa el Fna is breathtaking. As Hassan’s story builds, the square fills with drummers, jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, beggars, artists, poets, and singers. The Jemaa el Fna itself becomes another character in the tale. It wouldn’t be surprising if readers book a plane ticket to see such enchanted sites. Treat yourself to a beautiful story with fascinating characters and a thrilling mystery.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin