Tag Archives: the kite runner

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini I read a lot of depressing books. But I think I just finished the most depressing book I've ever read (with the possible exception of Sophie's Choice, which I read many, many years ago): A Thousand Splendid Suns, the companion to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. This was one disturbing book.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, like The Kite Runner, takes place in Afghanistan. This time, though, Hosseini tells Afghanistan's story through the eyes of women, ending in the mid 2000s. The women are Mariam, born illegimately to a maid and her rich employer, and Laila, a more privileged girl born in Kabul whose life takes a dramatic turn at age 14 and ends up entwined with Mariam's. Hosseini takes on motherhood, love, marriage, abusem, oppression, sacrifice, and freedom in telling Mariam and Laila's stories.

Like The Kite Runner, Hosseini injects danger – or the possibility of it – into every page of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Terrible things happen, over and over again. Afghanistan's bloody and tragic history, from the Soviet occupation to the Taliban, forms the backdrop for the unimaginable devastation, fear and loss that his characters experience. I don't think that Hosseini is necessarily a writer of great literature – he leaves little to the imagination, and can be repetitive in this themes - but he is undeniably an expert storyteller. I commend him for making a complicated situation very easy to follow.

This book has haunted me since I finished it. My god, am I lucky to be a woman living in the United States right now. We have so many liberties that we take for granted, no matter how convinced we are of our fundamental right to enjoy them.

I listened to A Thousand Splendid Suns mostly on audio, with the exception of the last three chapters. I liked the audio version a lot – there's a female narrator with a foreign accent that sounds like it is probably faithful to Hosseini's mother tongue (though I wouldn't know if it weren't) and the story is easy to follow on audio.

If you haven't already read A Thousand Splendid Suns, then proceed with caution. Be prepared for an intense, though ultimately quite rewarding, read.

Hi there, FTC. You want to know if I got a free book in order to write this review? Nope. Audiobook was from the library and I found the hardcover at a used book sale.

THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini

Kite-runner As I mentioned last week, 2010 was the year of reading books that other people liked. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, is definitely on that list – it’s a bestseller that’s been ubiquitous for years (came out in 2003), but that I hadn’t been particularly motivated to read until about a month ago.

For those few who haven’t read it already, The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a privileged boy who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan in the early 70s with a strong but distant and unapproving father. His best friend was Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, who adored Amir unconditionally despite Amir’s often dismissive and cruel attitude toward him. The Kite Runner follows Amir after he and his father emigrated to America when the Russians take over Afghanistan, until he ends up returning to the troubled country in the early 00’s when the Taliban is now in power.

Amir betrays Hassan early on in the book, and spend his life deeply regretting it. The Kite Runner is a story of redemption – the lengths one will go to in order “to be good again”. It is also a story about fathers and sons, and the lengths one will go to for the approval both of a parent and a society. And, finally, it is of course the story of the destruction of Afghanistan over the last decades, due to political warlordism, bombings, violence, Taliban, etc.

The Kite Runner is a painful read – there is violence lurking at every corner. But it is a very powerful book, too – one that I had trouble putting down. The writing is clear and simple, even repetitive at times. Hosseini makes a few of the same points over and over, which was a little annoying by the end – as if the reader couldn’t have grasped his themes without the repetition. I also had issues with the last third of the book, which seemed unrealistic in places and rushed, compared to the contemplative, detailed pace of the first two thirds.

In the end, I liked The Kite Runner, but I didn’t love it. I am not surprised that it became as popular as it did – it is a bit of an adrenaline rush, both brutal and beautiful. I am glad I read it, and glad to have learned more about Afghanistan. I listened to it mostly on audio, narrated by the author, which I recommend (I loved hearing his native accent).

I’m sure many of you have read The Kite Runner – what did you think?