A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Book Review

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Historical fiction

Blurb from Goodreads

Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed.

Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter.

When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear.

Yet love can move people to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with startling heroism.

My Review

I’m so disappointed by this novel. I had heard so many wonderful things about it, and was really expecting a compelling read.

The story is one that should move any reader as it focuses on characters in a war torn Afghanistan and the horrific calamities endured by its people. It focuses on what life is like for two women, main characters Mariam and Laila. And they experience such shocking and devastating cruelty as they suffer under the rule of the Taliban. We see the horrors of war through the eyes of ordinary women.

But yet I never truly felt what they felt. Somehow I was always held back from them by some invisible force. It’s like I read this book behind bulletproof glass; I could see the story and the atrocities were laid bare in front of eyes and yet I could not touch the characters. The stylistic writing choices made by the author made this an incredibly passive reading experience. The prose was sterile, dispassionate even, and all in all was written in a much too matter-of-fact fashion. It was so cold and clinical with absolutely no heart whatsoever. And therefore I felt utterly detached from the events of the book on an emotional level.

So it wasn’t really until I closed the book that I felt anything. And that emotion was extreme disappointment; disappointment at the lost potential of the book and disappointment at myself for not being able to break through the walls of this writer.

The only good aspect is that the narrative was kept moving by a cohesive and well thought out plot so in that sense it made the book very readable and I was able to engage with it on that level. But sadly the characters never came to life; a truly brilliant idea that was ever so poorly executed.

This is an important book in that it educates people to the recent history of life in Afghanistan. We don’t have enough popular fiction books either written or translated into the English language that cover such events so I would recommend it for that reason alone. Just don’t expect a novel filled with well-written or engaging characters.

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