Review of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

a_thousand_splendid_suns.jpg Mariam was born as the illegitimate daughter of the wealthy Jalil but raised by her mother Nana in a cottage in the hills. When Nana commits suicide due to Mariam's continual desire to spend time with her doting father she returns to live with Jalil but this is an impossible situation so his wives marry her off to the wealthy Rasheed in Kabul despite Mariam being only 15 years old. After the initial thrill of marriage Rasheed begins to show his true colours, treating Mariam more like a slave than a wife.

In Kabul, Laila is a local teenager in love with Tariq, a young disabled man who leaves to fight in the war in Afghanistan. When she learns that Tariq has been killed in action she quickly agrees to become the second wife of Rasheed who is unhappy that Mariam has been unable to provide him with a son. Rasheed is very happy when he learns that Laila is pregnant (though he would not be happy to know who is really the father) but this quickly turns sour when it turns out to be a girl. Initially Mariam is jealous of Laila and makes her life difficult. With the coming of the Taliban and the enforced suppression of the rights of women including requiring that women not work, and that they wear a full body cloak that covers the head and face. Rasheed comes into his own with the new regime and the beatings and abuse continue with abandon. After an aborted attempt by Mariam and Laila to run away Rasheed inflicts his wrath with no mercy. Mariam and Laila form a bond through their oppression, supporting each other through the difficult times that follow.

Another “fun” novel from Hossieni after his award-winning “The Kite Runner”. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is not a sequel to “The Kite Runner” but rather a story set in the same difficult times, that of Afghanistan in the late 20th century. Where “The Kite Runner” focuses on the tragedy inflicted on the men “A Thousand Splendid Suns” instead focuses on the more severe and systemic oppression of woman under the Taliban. Despite the dark events of this novel told in graphic detail this is undoubtedly a tale of love - The love of Mariam for Laila, and the love of Laila for Tariq - The idea that love can overcome all the horrors that life may give. Obviously this novel is difficult to read at time but it told with great passion and sympathy. Quickly I begin to yearn for Mariam and Laila to achieve the happiness they so obviously deserve. With the empathy for the two women imparted by Hosseini their ongoing pain and sadness hurts me as a reader as I continue through the story feeling every blow that is inflicted against them. Being a tale of a difficult period of human history the story was never going to end entirely on a happy note but there is, at the end, some happiness to be had.

Another wonderful, powerful and emotional novel from Hosseini.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2015-11-28

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: 2007

ISBN: 9780747585893

Other reviewed books by Khaled Hosseini: