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Monday, January 28, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Although I don't usually read contemporary "Best Sellers" due to my bizarre tastes in literature, I was delighted to finally get around to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

While Kite Runner followed the companionship between boys and men, A Thousand Splendid Sons dealt with the feminine perspective of life, love, and friendship set against the backdrop of tumultuous Afghanistan. As a testament to the enduring spirit of those who experience the hardships of a politically unstable land, the characters in both novels endure. Some flourish, some fall victim to, and some grow as a result of their circumstances.

The named antagonists of both novels are slightly stylized as the typical Hollywood villain, bearing no redeemable qualities and pretty much "bad to the bone" where the reader has little insight into their complexities. Ironically, I feel the lesser antagonists are given a little more explanation as to their motives in carrying out actions that make the protagonists lives a misery. This doesn't detract from the story-telling, however, as sometimes it's just as powerful to be exposed to a character who personifies evil than to have one you can invest some sympathy into. After all, there are some people in this world who really don't have any redeemable qualities and were doomed by birth or circumstance to make no positive contributions to this world. (And no, getting the trains to run on time doesn't really count as a weighty contribution to the positive).

In my hormonal, maternal state, I'm quite easily moved to tears by anything involving children or the suffering of women and so it came as no surprise to me that this novel would turn on my waterworks, but it was the relationship between the daughter and father that brought me to tears more than any other part of the book. Other parts concerning horrors I have never known made me need to take breaks to absorb what I had read, but this part that touched me personally was so evocative that I had to shed some cathartic tears as I struggled to read. I won't go into detail as I wouldn't want to ruin it for the few people out there who intend to read it and haven't yet.

This would be an interesting novel to study alongside The Swallows of Kabul as both offer vignettes of various depths into the lives of those touched by the emergence of the Taliban but with vastly different story-telling styles. Hosseini comes across as a more readily accessible American movie, and Khadra as a nihilistic French art house film. Neither is meant as an insult, though it was the best way I could think of comparing the two in one sentence! Both are splendid authors and I look forward to reading more from both!


7aki Fadi said...

I read the book recently and really enjoyed it.
Here's what I and a bunch of others thought.


Fantastic read.

Cairogal said...

I loved this book-even more than THe Kite Runner. I don't know why, but I found more hope in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Speaking of the former-it should be in cinemas now. Have you seen it?

TeacherLady said...

7aki fadi, thanks! I had forgotten to go back and read your review because at first I avoided it as I hadn't read the book yet!
Cairogal, I don't go to the cinema much nowadays but I fully intend on getting it on DVD when it comes out. I can't wait!

21stCenturyShea said...


I noticed you like Neil Gaiman. Have you ever read "Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell"? Gaiman thinks its the best British fantasy novel of the past 70 years.

'liya said...

I read the book but didn't like it as much as Kiterunner. From page 1 though, I was moved by tears and was pretty much in that state through reading the whole thing.

TeacherLady said...

21stcenturyshea, are you stalking me? I'm reading that right now. Got it second hand recently... I love Victorian lit. too, so it's a great combination of styles for me!