Friday, December 24, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

The very first issue I had with this book was that I didn't like reading about a woman that is married against her will and that is afterward beaten for various reasons and trapped in an unhappy marriage. Because this is also the story of many real women, I felt bad and didn't enjoy reading the first few chapters. I nevertheless pushed myself and made it to the end rather satisfied.

I picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns mainly because I wanted to learn something new. This book is rich in history and culture of Afghanistan, and I'm glad it enlightened me.

This is the story of Mariam and Laila who survive the many conflicts in Afghanistan and also the hardships of their marriage to the same man, Rasheed, your typical cruel husband who beats and reduces the freedom of his wives. It's the story of how, despite those hardships, they create a family and find happiness after many years of death and war.

The book is written in the point of view of Mariam and Laila, and alternates between the two. The plot itself is quite good, but to me most of the characters seemed flat, at the beginning especially. There isn't much I could say about any of them. They aren't memorable characters, either, and got better only towards the ending of the book. Look how short my review is! I really don't have much to say about it. It is a book that will be appreciated for the mass of information it contains, for its message and meaning, but not for the characters.

I think this story should be read for the context and history it presents. It definitively has something to teach, but I consider A Thousand Splendid Suns as the kind of book that is only good to read if you want to get a good portrait of some chunk of history: The characters are flat, the writing style is simple and uninspiring, and so all you pay attention to or remember after the read is the drama and the moral.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Rating: 7,7/10

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