Monday, 7 September 2015

Review: The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher by Ahn Do-hyun

Title: The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
Author: Ahn Do-hyun
Cover Artist: Daniella Terrazzini
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: 9th April 2015 (in England)
Genre: Contemporary Fable
Page Count: 128
Original Language: Korean
Format Read: Paperback
Other books in series: N/A
Movie Adaptation: N/A 

Where you can buy it:  AmazonThe Book DepositoryWaterstonesEbay

I picked this up in Waterstones a few months ago because it looked really cute. The cover is a beautiful matte grey with embossed shine on the waves of the ocean and the title font, and it caught my eye immediately. I decided to take it with me when I went on holiday, and it was a really enjoyable little read!


The life of the salmon is a predictable one: swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn, and then to die.
This is the story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different - who dares to leap beyond his fate. It's a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love. For swimming upstream means pursuing something the salmon cannot see: a dream.
Translated for the first time into English, The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher is a wise, tender and inspiring modern fable about finding freedom and a harmony with nature we have either forgotten or lost in the binding realities of life.

*SPOILER ALERT: This review assumes you are familiar with the story

This was a cute fable-like story. In fact, I have no idea what genre this actually is, and so I just labelled it as a contemporary fable. 

The story is about a shoal of salmon trying to safely travel upstream and the struggles that come with the journey, even though it is something they do each year. Silver Salmon is a different colour from the rest of his group and so he ends up feeling lonely, as none of the other Salmon really bother with him. The novel explores what it is like as a salmon to have to cope with such dangerous journeys and also how Silver Salmon grows to be a leader, meeting and falling for Clear-Eyed Salmon along the way. It is also interesting to enter the mind of a salmon falling in love for the first time, and not really know what that is or how to handle it, because he is in fact a salmon.

It is a very different read, as the protagonist was a salmon. Like, an actual fish. And so were the rest of the characters. I really liked this strange aspect, but I know that many people might not be able to cope with there being zero humans in it, and some people may not think the idea of talking fish is very appealing, so just bear that in mind when considering to buy this book.

It is also very interesting to read Korean work, as I have never ventured this area of literature before. Again with my comment about people maybe being put off by it being a book about fish - it isn't the 'norm' for Western novels and romances to not involve humans, but I think that this is one of the beautiful things about reading literature from other cultures. I'd tell you to give it a go, but you all have your own minds and I'm sure you'll know if this is a book for you or not.

Silver Salmon + Clear-Eyed Salmon = OTP. I'm all for that deep sea fish shipping.

Overall, the book was really nice all around. I wasn't in a particular rush to read it, and it ended up being interesting but not gripping. I think it lacked passion and emotion in places, but it was really poetic and so it was like a piece of art instead. As a cross between a children's tale and an adult book, it was a really weird reading experience but I liked it a lot! So, I think this book deserves a solid 3/5 British cups of tea.

About the author:

Ahn Do-hyun is an award-winning author and poet from Korea who studied Korean Literature at Wonkwang University. His writing career took off when he won the Daegu Maeil Shinmun Annual Literary Contest with his poen 'Nakdong River' in 1981, and he has gone on to receive many more awards since then for his work.

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