Monday, September 24, 2007

Khaled Hosseini/A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS


I'll begin this review by mentioning that I have not read THE KITE RUNNER. Most reviews I have read of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS has started of with a comparison between it and THE KITE RUNNER. (Almost always saying either that is far exceeded or fell well short of Hosseini's debut, rarely anything in the middle.) So we'll skip that part.

I picked up this book at the library for the same reason I suspect many readers did. Because I felt I should. I wasn't particularly interested in a story about Middle Eastern women, but the subject matter seemed relevant to our day and I had been told by several people that is was a great book. But I did feel a little guilted into reading it, because of it's setting, and it makes me wonder how many others picked it up for the same reading.

But regardless of why I picked it up, I had difficulty putting it down for the next two days. I was grabbed from the very first sentence (although not really by the dust jacket) and it held on to me until about twenty pages from the end of the book. (I'll get to that in a minute.) It is a heart-wrenching novel of two women in Afghanistan whose lives eventually become intertwined. This thing I loved about this book is that it is so sad and enraging that even the tiniest little victories for the women seem enormous. But unlike I would have suspected, I don't feel like the author is cheating or pulling at heartstrings like you would puppetstrings. Perhaps because the setting and tone are so real, that you cannot help but believe that these people are real, and that this is the life they are living.

The story begins in the late 1950's and follows history through about 2004. It was so interesting to see references to U.S. historical events (for example, Watergate and 9-11) through the eyes of an Middle Eastern woman. It lends even more credibility to the story. The prose is quite simple, which I am a fan of, and the action moves along at a good pace. It is literary enough that you feel like it should be a big, thick book, but actually clocks in at only 384 pages. I really enjoyed the characters and the villain is truly a bad guy's bad guy. It even has a surprise twist at the end to boot. A book that really has it all.

My one complaint about this book is I felt like the author tried to hard to wrap everything up in a nice little package and stretched his credibility a little to much to accomplish that. A book so full of angst and realism should not, in my opinion, be wrapped up in quite so pretty and neat of a package. I would have preferred the book to end about twenty pages before it actually did.

Still, I would definitely give this book an excellent rating and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone.

3 comments:

angelle said...

i liked this book a lot. it's hard for me to compare between this and kite runner - i felt it was tighter than kite runner, definitely, but somehow kite runner will always hold a special place in my heart that this one didn't.

moonrat said...

I've wanted to read this really bad since I finished Kite Runner in August, but I was trying to hold out for paperback... Oooooh so sorely tempted, though...

Church Lady said...

I want to read Kite Runner first.

I will read this one. I live 5 months a year in Dubai, and have lived in other Middle Eastern countries. I am very curious if this book is authentic. One of my acquaintences is a young Saudi princess. I should ask her to read this and review!