Saturday, August 14, 2010
Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Adult Fiction (but suitable for YA)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Challenges: Women Unbound, POC, To Be Read
FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift last year and will donate it to my school library
Summary (from the inside flap): This is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years--from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding--that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives--the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness--are inextricable from the history playing out around them. It is a heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
Review: I really enjoyed the Kite Runner when I read it years ago, but had put off reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. Now that I've read it, I am wondering why I postponed?! The summary from the inside flap doesn't really explain the plot of this book at all, so here's a quick synopsis without giving away any of the stuff that eac reader should get to discover for him/herself. Part One is the story of Mariam is a harami, a bastard, and is raised by her mother in poverty in a small town outside the city of Herat. Her life is far from easy but as a teenager she takes measures into her own hands to try to reclaim her father and a new life for herself. Part Two follows Laila (20 years Mariam's junior) who lives in Kabul with her loving and educated family. She has a best friend, Tariq, with whom she later falls in love. Part Three sees the lives of these two women intersect in a way that is fascinating, shocking, devastating, and so very raw.
This book really is the story of women in Afghanistan as told through Laila and Mariam. They experience huge changes as each successive government takes over Afghanistan in turn from the communist Soviet invasion to the Mujahideen to the Taliban life is never easy for these women, especially when the men in their lives control their every move.
What I liked especially about this book is that it shows the many sides of Afghanistan. I learned about language, culture, and history but without feeling like I was reading a text. These aspects are part of the story and do not detract, but add to the reader's understanding of the characters and their experiences. Hosseini also shows that within Afghanistan (as with all nations) there is a wide variety of beliefs toward women, education, religion, and family. I think that is so important since we tend to see one version of Afghanistan (women wearing burqas, beatings, etc).
The story line is also powerful, full of hatred, friendship, love, sadness, and moments of tenderness. I really like Hosseini's writing style as I am drawn in to every page, expectantly waiting what will happen next. The characters, both good and bad, are so real I feel like I know them and can visualize them clearly as I read. They are realistic, believable, and each plays an important role without extraneous characters cluttering up the book.