Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns | Khaled Hosseini

People may not know the name Khaled Hosseini, but most are familiar with his work. “The Kite Runner” has been one of the most popular novels since it’s publication in 2004. With the war in Afghanistan in the forefront of many North American’s minds since September 11th, 2001, Hosseini picked a great time to introduce citizens to the culture in his native country.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is his second such work. This novel details, in specific, the role of a woman in Afghanistan. Unlike the modern media, this book gives a more accurate depiction of what real life is like, in a country facing over 30 years of war. While the author managed to escape the country in 1980, I would venture that he has visited Afghanistan many times since including stints as part of his United Nations work.

The novel is madding, gruesome and painful - but extremely heartfelt. In my opinion, it contains one of those most evil villains in literature of our time since Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The book gives us similar cultural tidbits as “The Kite Runner” did, but I find the story is less enjoyable. While it was definitely a page turner, it did not strike as passionate a chord in me as “The Kite Runner” did.

It felt like the novel wrapped everything up in a neat little package, but did so in a formulaic way. Eating a bowl of ice cream is a great indulgence, but eating a carton of it leaves you sick and teaches you that there was a time where you should have just stopped. This novel has that feeling to me, but I’m sure it will do very well with the popular culture crowd. After reading Hardy’s “Tess of D’Ubervilles” days before, however; it’s difficult to view Hosseini’s novel as great literature.

He is, however, a great storyteller. His novel flows extremely well, his characters draw you in and reading a book written by him produces images unequalled through the cinema.

As I stated after reading and discussing “The Kite Runner”, it would be interesting to see Hosseini write a novel on another topic not set in Afghanistan. It wouldn’t be nearly as profitable, but it would allow us to see Hosseini’s storytelling in a new light… and see if he can repeat his early successes.

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