CFN – I read. I read a lot. I read fiction and non-fiction. I read biographies. Mostly I read pulp fiction (Evanovich, Robb, Patterson, Clancy and their ilk). But I also read the classics (Shakespeare, Bronte, Dickens). And then there’s Khaled Hosseini.
I was first introduced to him in “The Kite Runner”, a fascinating book of old Afghanistan in the time of the monarchy, later to die and be plunged into revolution. Rich in detail without being overdrawn, it told the story of two boys, one rich and one poor, growing up in the city, and of their lives as they progressed from childhood to adulthood. The narrator was the rich boy, and the story has stayed with me. The book has since been made into a movie. I can’t watch that movie. To me, there is no way the stunning detail and harrowing emotions can be translated from the page to the screen as effectively as Mr. Hosseini detailed them in writing.
In his second effort, “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, we follow the story of Mariam, born on the wrong side of the blanket in Afghanistan, to a very rich father and one of his house servants. The father banishes them to a hut far enough from his home that his wives and other children can ignore them but the father can still visit. As in “The Kite Runner”, the author has chosen to set the story in and around the revolution that brought the Russians to Afghanistan, and then follows it through to the dominance of the Taliban in everyday life in that country.
I was very doubtful when I picked up the book initially. In fact, I didn’t get very far into the narrative when I put it down, never intending to return to it. Frequently, an author will have one book in them and never write as brilliantly again. Further, the story is written from the female perspective: How could a man possibly understand the difficulties of a woman in a society where men reign supreme?
About a year later, I picked it up again, determined to find whatever it was that Mr. Hosseini wanted to bring to our attention.
It was a very difficult read for me emotionally, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. Mariam is a witness to the downfall of women’s education, rights and dignity. She is beaten, raped and degraded by the man her father sold her to in marriage following the death of her mother and Mariam’s attempt to integrate herself into her father’s world.
When the husband takes a second wife, things become truly interesting in the household and it is here that we see Mr. Hosseini’s understanding of the female psyche come to life. His portrayal of the relationship that evolves between Mariam and the second wife, Laila, is a study in character development, but that is not the only purpose of this book.
To say more would be to ruin the story. Suffice it to say that the climax and dénouement of the story will stay with me forever, as will the characters and the wonder that is Khaled Hosseini’s prose.
My rating: 4.5/5
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Dael Foster is an avid reader and a self employed accountant in her spare time. By her count she’s read over 12,000 novels (some of those many, many times), several hundred text books and more government websites than ought to exist researching tax and business issues for her clients. She works between Montreal and Ottawa, with detours to Cornwall for family and clients.
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