Jan 10, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I wrote a review a very long time back for the college magazine about my favorite book - A Thousand Splendid suns. If you haven't yet read the book then go and read it NOW! Now, I'm hardly the expert of reviews, because this happens to be the only one I have ever written :P so I'm not exactly sure how long it is supposed to be. But anyways, hope you guys like it. Here goes :

"Khaled Hosseini's 2003 novel "The Kite Runner" arrived at the perfect post-9/11 moment, bringing into glaring spotlight the suddenly notorious Islamic nation of Afghanistan & then slowly weaved a rich, deeply affecting & painfully heart wrenching story that spoke of friendship, treachery, Taliban cruelty, and redemption. Next, Hosseini presents before us, a heart breaking follow-up “A Thousand Splendid Suns", set once again against the backdrop of recent violence of Afghanistan, which literally reveals the bruises beneath the burqa.

“The Kite Runner” got off a gripping start & later stumbled into sentimentality. Like a stark contrast “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” starts off subtly, slowing unfurling, progressively gaining speed & emotional power. Hosseini who was born in Kabul and moved to the United States in 1980,is a gifted storyteller who creates characters deftly, colored with simplicity & rudimentary boldfaced emotions, intertwined expertly with melodramatic plot lines. The story gives an intimate look at a nation that is torn apart by war, in a way that speaks to a vast majority of the world's readers. Because inspite of his writing being vivid & descriptive, it remains balanced & shockingly real, which gives you a distinct feeling that you are right there watching it all happen.

A Thousand Splendid Suns offers a harrowing insight into the lives of Afghan women spanning over the last 3 decades, alternating between the points of view of the two main protagonists of the story – Mariam & Laila, who are women born into very different circumstances. The story set primarily in Kabul starts in 1964 with a five-year-old Mariam, & finally ends in 2003, spanning over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the defeat and withdrawal of the Russians that led to the warlords in-fighting, followed by the rise of the Taliban, and ends with the beginning of democratic rule.

Mariam is the abandoned illegitimate daughter, result of a wealthy businessman’s sexual dalliance with a washerwoman. At 15, curious about the outside world, & the remainder of her blood ties, she decides to take her life’s course into her own hands… & it isn’t one she always desired. Her mother commits suicide and she is forced to marry Rasheed, a shoemaker in Kabul, who apart from being 3 times her age, is a coarse, lecherous and violent man who effectively turns Mariam’s already disheveled life into a living hell. Hossieni reveals how Mariam’s destiny is taken from her hands in a casual, almost impassive way, which gives an insight to his natural storytelling talents, pulling the readers heartstrings in just the right way.

The life of the novel’s other heroine, Laila, takes an even sharper trajectory toward ruin. Though she is the cherished daughter of an intellectual, Laila finds her life shattered when first her brothers fall martyr for the country, & then a rocket —a result of the mujahideen running riot in the country— lands on her house and kills her parents. Alone in a war torn country, half deaf by a bomb blast & terrified that she is pregnant by her childhood sweetheart Tariq, who has already left Afghanistan, Laila is forced to take cover with Rasheed and his wife. Soon her life starts to resemble the one that countless Afghan women live each day, & she finds herself, at 14, Rasheed’s new wife.

There is no joy in this grotesque union, only humiliation & servitude, but the slow-growing friendship between the 2 women, against all expectations, sustains and transforms them over the increasingly gruesome years that come. The romantic twists in the story may seem fairytale-like but all in all the story remains a sadly accurate version of what many Afghan women have experienced.

At its best, the novel is a view into all the big events of Afghan history, through a veil: daily mundane household chores, the way the family treats each other, their daily life – we see nothing except through their eyes, & that is what makes the novel a stirring read. The novel never feels like a history lesson or a window on human rights issue, all of the best elements of fiction are present right there: love, betrayal, crisis, scandal, the best and worst of human behavior. What's unmistakable though is how much war -- be in the Soviets, the Americans or the Taliban and various factions -- have gutted the country. This is a story of a country in which there are roughly 2 million war widows & almost as many beggars as there are burqa’s. Nearly every family who stayed had someone who was murdered, raped and tortured and sometimes entire families were massacred.

Someone who keeps track of international news will be well exposed to the atrocities of war & the suffering of women, but as fiction, it devastates in an unflinchingly real way, that will force each reader to imagine the consequence of facing such a grim fate. All in all there are the lessons to be learnt: true love never dies; justice will be done; sisterhood is powerful. It’s a novel that will keep you on the edge till u read the last line, well worth a read, impossible to resist. Speaking of his countrymen in “The Kite Runner” made Khaled Hossieni a well known name among the new genre of writers, but it is the plight of Afghan women in “A thousand splendid suns” that has brought him to realize his full powers as a novelist.

-- Annie.


Anonymous said...

wow.. amazing

Crazy Blogger said...

"Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always."

One of my all time fav quotes. I liked the book but I Liked kite runner better.

Have u seen the movie?

n yes review is nice !

Crazy Blogger said...

"A man's heart is a wretched, wretched thing. It isn't like a mother's womb. It won't bleed. It won't stretch to make room for you."

I liked this one also!

Freelancer said...

oi let me read the book first!!

buckingfastard said...

i likd kite runner bettr coz maybe being a guy i cud more relate to da frndship in kite runner dan dat of splendid suns...

but i luvd da way u wrote da review...proper highlight of da writer...and u even description of da story...dose who havnt read it is surely to be intrigued to read it asap

Haddock said...

I think "Blasphemy" has hit the nail on the head.

Nikhil Menon said...


U write a masterpiece and say ur not a pro?? Yeah rytt..

heights of hypermodesty...


totalliemeh said...

a little bit formal language. but ofcourse, enjoyable.

i loved "A Thousand Splendid Suns" better than "The kite runner". I dont know why. There are a lot of passages in this book that i read over and over again..it might seem childish,but i cried when i read jalil's letter to mariam-"perhaps this is the punishment for those who had been heartless-to understand only when nothing can be done"

The part where laila thinks about tariq after he had left-that is also heartbreaking- "There would come a day,infactyears later,when laila will no longerbewail his loss". God knows how many times I have read that paragraph.

i am having the book with me right now..And i feel queer.

Nice names-aziza,mariam,laila...:)

The Double Inverted Commas said...

One of my favourite books!!!

Iddy Albatross said...

This review got me in that mindset again, the one I had when I was reading that book. A long time ago it was too, but now the memories are fresh again. I loved both books by Hosseini equally...

Good review... Cheers :)

bondgal_rulz said...

Just leaving my imprint.

Haven't read the book thus far, so didn't wanna go ahead with the review. :)

But knowing you, I'm sure it's nothing short of a masterpiece. :)

Dhanya said...

I read this book few weeks back and I have been recommending everyone to read it ever since! I never cried so much while reading a book... and you know, by the end of it all it makes us feel good that we're living such a comfortable and good life.

IceMaiden said...


I loved those exact same lines too. Really the most heartbreaking book I have ever read...
Thanks for liking the review :)

:P Go read NOW! You missing out on one of the best books ever written.

Kiterunner was a good book no doubt.. But somehow this one left a deeper mark. Maybe because its related to women or maybe because i read this one first...
Thanks for liking the review. :)

? er?

This is really the first and only review I have ever written. Thanks! :)

@Damsel In Distress,
Yes I know.. I generally never use formal language, as you may have seen in all the other posts. I wrote this a long time back, and since it was for a college magazine, i had to make it appear professional :P
Yeah I like those names too.. :)

@Double Inverted Commas,
Me too! :)

:) Yeah I know that.. Thanks for liking the review :)

You HAVENT!? Go read now, TRUST ME you will love it, and warning you beforehand, you will cry! :)

Oh yes I cried in that book too, the book on the whole moved me so much, I just made me think... you know just THINK about the horror of leading that sort of life.. And here I was cursing about things like mom not allowing us to wear skirts... It just made me feel so thankful that we stay in such a wonderful country that gives us so many rights.

Luv all,

Anwesa said...

I loved the book. Its a masterpiece for me.

And this review sounds like my thoughts put in your words.

Arslan said...

Excellent book! And the review does justice to it. :)

IceMaiden said...

Yes for me too!!! :)
We do happen to have somewhat similar tastes, don't we? :)

I think the book is so incredible, a true masterpiece, no review would actually be able to do any justice to it. :)
Thanks for liking my review :)

bliss said...

coincidence or wat but i just read kite runner!!!and reading this review, i wanna read the other book too. i fell in love with Hossieni's style of writing instantly and i bet the other book is just as gripping!!!!

freebird...... said...

i likd the way u put it..but donno wat a "formal" review is like...i feel like readin the book..tats the whole pt rite...i've seen the kite runner movie...tats really touchin one....ba bye...

IceMaiden said...


Oh yes you will love Thousand Splendid.. trust me :)


Thanks! :)

Nupur said...

Lovely review!! It's my favourite book too! I love the way he weaves words into a story!! It's almost poetic!

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