Monday, 12 April 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Like a lot of people, I read the Kite Runner then immediately went out and brought A Thousand Splendid Suns where for a very long time it sat on my bookshelf. I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this especially after I loved the Kite Runner? Perhaps it was because of the impact that the Kite Runner has which made me reluctant to go on this journey again?

A Thousand Splendid Suns is also set in Afghanistan and like the Kite Runner, follows the history of the country from the Soviets leaving to the rise and downfall of the Taliban. There are a lot of similarities to the Kite Runner, they are both largely set in Kabul and landmarks such as the orphanage and the stadium executions are also present in both books. Where A Thousand Splendid Suns differs though is that it is told from the prospective of two women and unlike the Kite Runner these characters are unable to leave Afghanistan so are forced to stay and endure the Taliban’s reign.

Mariam from a young age is forced to marry a man much older than her and then has to endure a loveless and quite often violent marriage, about 20 years later this man takes another much younger wife called Laila and the two women soon form a strong bond. These women are inflected with suffocating horror from both their husband and from the Taliban all the while their friendship develops and brings some small relief.

Hosseini is a great storyteller, the book despite its subject is an easy read and at times I couldn’t put it down as the plot is so fast paced. This is not an ‘embellished’ story; you do not get to read about the smells or atmosphere of the various homes you visit although you do get a sense of claustrophobia and hopelessness. There were also a few plot developments which I did not see coming so for me this was not in anyway a predictable book.

A lot of people have criticised the main female characters calling them two dimensional and although I agree that they are slightly, I think this may be more of a result of the fast pace of the novel. The time frame at one point jumps forward about 15 years and it’s not unusual in this book to jump months or a few years forward and I think the character development in this book has suffered a little as a result.

Overall while I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, it lacked the same structure and punch that the Kite Runner had.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I'm glad you liked the book. I bought it at the local book fair a few months ago after I read The Kite Runner. I had mostly seen negative things about it, so it's good to see a review from someone who enjoyed it!

  2. Funny, I know I've heard about this book at various times and places and probably even picked it up a few times, but this is the first time I can remember having any actual idea what the book is about! I've been kind of on the fence, but you've convinced me that I will probably like it.

  3. Sometimes I stay away from books if I think they are going to be too upsetting and I have to admit that I have done that with Hosseini's books. I have all intentions of reading them, but just haven't been in the mood for the heavy themes that I have been told appear in them.

    I'm thinking this one may appeal more to me than his other book though, because I like books about women's relationships.

  4. Good review. I've had a copy of this book for a long time, just haven't gotten around to reading it. I'll have to give it a go.

  5. Love, love this book!!!! I can't really compare itto his first because despite the similarities, I still consider them different. If I have to choose one over the other though, I would choose this one!!

  6. This book is really worth reading! But, if you want to get an even better feel for the story, listen to the audiobook. The narrator is wonderful and her pronounciation of the non-English words gives you the feeling as if you are hearing the story from Mariam and Laila themselves. It is a beautiful story, and it perfectly portrays the idea that you can tell how advanced a society is becoming (or failing to become) by looking at how the women are treated. As the different regimes take hold in Afghanistan over time, the women's lives seem to mirror the changes and loss of freedom.