A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini
Summary: A Thousand Splendid Suns 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 the 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.I really loved this book and I’m not entirely sure why -- I didn’t realise that I couldn’t pin point the reason I loved it until I tried to write this review.
Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love—a stunning accomplishment.
I’ll start with the negatives because that’s easier to pinpoint. I had a few problems with the book but they didn’t bother me too much or impact my overall opinion of it, I’d still rate it 5/5 stars. The problems:
Foreign words in the writing followed by their English translations. This wasn’t too annoying, but it didn’t seem realistic. The characters are all speaking the same language (well, for the most part), so when they’re thinking or speaking to each other, they wouldn’t throw English translations into what they’re saying so it was clearly thrown in for the benefit of the reader. This would be fine, except for the fact that a lot of the words had English translations to begin with and seeing as the book was printed in English, they should’ve just stuck with the English words (or, if they insisted on not going with the English version, they should’ve just left the words as they were and added a glossary type thing for the reader instead of making the dialogue awkward and unrealistic in those parts).
The other issue was the descriptions. Sometimes Khaled Hosseini goes a bit OTT on the descriptions of places - some people are into detailed descriptions of rooms and landscapes and all that, I’m just not really one of them. Also, the political descriptions…again, it was like the thing with foreign words thing where it was obvious that it was thrown in purely for the readers benefit. There would be discussions about the war, which is fair enough, but they’d be more like…history lessons and they stand out as being kind of staged because these characters talking to each other know the history of their country and what’s going on around them, they’re living it, so when the characters start stating the obvious about the politics around them then it’s clearly just for the reader (and the political parts were very heavy on the names, I couldn’t really keep track of them all).
I guess I’m not the biggest fan of the authors writing style…it’s not bad, I did like it and it had it's moments of greatness, it just wasn’t the kind that is so poetic and amazing that I would love the book just for the prose. But the story and the characters he creates? That I absolutely adored (as Stephenie Meyer proved, being good at the actual writing part is not necessary to write a book people go crazy for -- although Khaled Hosseini is way, way, way better than her writing).
Now that I’ve got the negative stuff out the way, onto the positive. The book basically had me hooked right from the first page and I really cared about the characters, especially Tariq and Leila…my heart broke for them and for Mariam.
I guess that is why I loved the book - the fact that it really got under my skin and made me care. If a book can make me care about the characters and really feel for them and their situation then it’s a good book.
It was interesting--and kind of infuriating--to see what life was like this for people, women especially in Afghanistan. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for those women and the kind of treatment and oppression they endured, especially at the hands of the Taliban.
Something about the book reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate - they have a few similaries, but in general they're very different...but just something about it - maybe it's just that I read the book not knowing what to expect and it surprised me with how much I loved it. But did anyone else get a Like Water For Chocolate book-love-deja-vu type feeling when reading this?
It’s 1am right now, so I apologise for how awful this review is and also for the fact that the majority of the review is negative when I said I loved it -- I honestly did love this book so much, but I meant it when I said it was hard to pinpoint why.
On another note, I really hope the movie version of this gets made (the rights have been sold and it has a director I think? but that could fall through), it's one of those books that would make a great movie if done right. Just like The Kite Runner was.