Thursday, 22 January 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This book has been sitting sadly and reproachfully on my shelf for over a year.  Why I didn't pick it up earlier, I really don't know.

It was an enjoyable read - with reservations.  It was easy enough to become involved in the story which moved swiftly along, easy to read and also enlightening.  It seemed to give a fascinating insight into lives, especially of women, during the troubled years before, during, and shortly after the influence of the Taliban, how the everyday lives of ordinary Afghani people were affected.

I have two main reservations though, even while recommending it.  The first is that Khaled Hosseini felt the need to explain the politics of the situation, the fighting between the different warlords and their followers.  That was fine but he did it by having the characters discuss what was happening, and it just didn't ring true. 

"And he's fighting Hekmatyar, of course, who has the support of the Pakistanis.  Mortal enemies, those two, Maassoud and Hekmatyar.  Sayyaf, he's siding with Massoud. And Hekmatyar supports the Hazaras for now."

My eyes glazed over during these passages: too many names I found difficult to remember.

The other reservation was that the characters were either black or white with nothing much in between:  Rasheed was too bad with no redeeming features, Tariq too good.  People are normally made up of so many different shades.  The women were rather better drawn but I still didn't feel I knew them, I didn't know how they thought. 

Don't let my reservations put you off though.  All round it was an easy and enjoyable read.  In spite of the tragedies of Afghanistan, the book ends on an optimistic note.  The real tragedy is that the optimism for the future of the country hasn't yet been fulfilled.
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Jennifer L Price said...

Your thoughts on this book were interesting as I enjoyed this book very much. It is, however, very intense and can be emotionally draining as I found myself connecting to the characters and their experiences, somewhat different from your reaction. He is certainly a talented writer.

Sheila@PaperbackPlaces said...

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book. I perhaps over-stated my reservations, which didn't really surface until I had to write this review, and the examination threw up points I hadn't considered before. I would happily read more books by Khaled Hosseini. I read The Kite Runner quite a while ago but found it less engaging.

storybeader said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this book. Haven't read it yet...