Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Khaled Hosseini’

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


I’ve previously read And The Mountains Echoed and  Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini, and believe me, this is an author who knows how to tell stories of pain and torment and anguish.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is the story of two boys growing up in the city of Kabul, in Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a rich man, while Hassan is the child of Amir’s father’s servant. Amir and Hassan, who are both motherless, shared the same wet nurse and despite the differences in their social status, are friends. Hassan is a Hazara, (an ethnic minority in Afghanistan) and he is bullied and tormented by Amir’s peers. Amir is not as courageous as Hassan, who demonstrates over and over again his love and respect and willingness to do anything for Amir, just as Hassan’s father does for Amir’s father. Amir’s and Hassan’s lives are forever shaped by several cowardly actions of Amir’s, which Amir regrets for the rest of his life.

Very soon after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Amir and his father fled for the United States, where Amir finished school and eventually married the love of his life. Amir eventually returned to Afghanistan, in an attempt to redeem himself for hurting Hassan. On his return, Amir barely recognised the Kabul of his childhood, which had become a violent, poverty stricken place.

Reading books like The Kite Runner makes me feel ashamed of myself for several reasons, one, for knowing so little about how people in other parts of the world live and what they go through, two, for being lucky enough to have been born into a majority ethnic group living in a stable and rich country and three, for knowing this and still choosing not to give everything I have to try to make a difference in the lives of people who are not as fortunate. I have a habit of burying my head in the sand when something is too horrible for me to think about, but the examples used in this book of the Taliban’s atrocities kept me awake the night I read this book.

The story is huge and full of terrible things, with details of inequality, hard-to-read depictions of the rape and abuse of children, and a terrible recounting of the public stoning of people found guilty of adultery, but The Kite Runner is also filled with heroes, such as Hussan and his father, Amir’s father, and eventually, Amir himself. A particularly lovely feature of the book was the feeling of belonging that Amir and his father had, both in Kabul and in San Francisco, as part of the Afghan community.

The edition I read was an illustrated edition, with photos of what to me looks like extreme poverty in a harsh land. The people in the photos look unhappy and frightened. The coloured photos show green walls everywhere, which I understand is a special colour for the Islamic people of Afghanistan. I suppose there is joy in people’s lives sometimes no matter what their circumstances, but these photos left me feeling sad.

The Kite Runner was Khaled Houssini’s first book and although it was a best seller, I think the author’s style has improved since writing this. Some of the storytelling was too obvious, with too many clichés and I found the narrator’s melodrama irritating as the story went on. However, while I wasn’t as touched by The Kite Runner as I was by the author’s other books, but it is still a worthy read.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains

I recently read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and couldn’t rest until I found another book by the same author. And the Mountains Echoed is Khaled Hosseini’s third novel.

This story starts with two children, Abdullah and Pari, begging their father to tell them a story. The story he tells them is of a terrible giant called a ‘div’, who once roamed Afghanistan stealing children from their families. One grieving father whose child had been stolen eventually hunted down the div, who, instead of killing the man showed him his child, living a rich and happy life in the most beautiful place imaginable. The div then gave the father a choice, either take his child away and never return, or leave the child with the div where he would grow into a man who would one day be able to touch a great many lives in ways that would benefit them enormously. The father chose to leave his child with the div, and the div rewarded the father with a magic potion which made him forget his child and his grief.

I don’t know if Khaled Hosseini’s stories are typical of storytellers from this part of the world, but his stories certainly don’t shy away from telling of the most enormous griefs imaginable.

Although neither Abdullah or Pari realise it, soon after their father tells them this story, Pari is given to a rich childless couple in Kabul. Pari’s father and his family are so poor that the baby of the family died in the cold the previous winter, and his choice to give Pari away is heart rending. Abdullah’s heart is broken when he leaves his sister, while Pari, who is very young, eventually forgets that she ever had another family than Suleiman and Nila Wahdati.

The story then moves to that of Nabi, who is the Wahdati’s driver. Nabi is in love with Nila Wahdati and it is he who arranged for the Wahdati’s to adopt Pari. Nila is a glamourous poet, who is unable to have children. She and her husband are unhappily married, despite their wealth and the eventual adoption of Pari, who at least provides them with a common interest. When Suleiman has a stroke, Nila and Pari leave Afghanistan to live in Paris. Nabi cares for Suleiman Wahdati for the next fifty years.

Each chapter in And the Mountains Echoed is almost a short story. The chapters moves from character to character, telling of their lives and loves in an enormous circle, travelling all around the world. There is a heroic nurse who cares for children with horrific injuries, families who have left Afghanistan during the war but who return to Afghanistan to try and reclaim their property, war lords and many more characters and stories, all interwoven with each other, before the story eventually returns to Abdullah and Pari. 

 There are plenty of joys in the stories too, with dear friendships and love and enormous sacrifices and kindnesses. Each pair of characters, who are very often siblings, sometimes disappoint the reader enormously, but they are also capable of and very often do behave in ways that are inspiring and wonderful. Even though I had enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns I had no idea this book would be so wonderful. Now I’m on the lookout for The Kite Runner.

Tag Cloud