Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
(Saeb-e-Tabrizi, translated from Farsi by Dr Josephine Davis)

Under the influence of Khaled Hosseini’s first book, The Kite Runner, I decided to read his second novel as I was interested in finding out if it was as strong as his previous book.

If The Kite Runner filled my soul with sadness and grief, A Thousand Splendid Suns also made me feel anger and outrage.

There are those people who just observe the story while reading and those who dive into the story and feel all the happiness or tragedy of the book’s characters. I belong to this second category. As a daughter, I could understand how the betrayal of a father would feel. As a woman, I could imagine what it would be like to be punched by my husband or forbidden to leave the house without him and to be prevented from studying or working. As a mother, I could imagine how it would feel to have a caesarian without anaesthetic or to be obliged, due to war and hunger, to leave one of my children in an orphanage.

A recurring thought I had while reading the book was “God forbid!” The despair of the characters’ situations, especially those of the women, felt like a “lump of anger and sorrow” in my throat, as we say here in Azerbaijan.
It is admirable how in one book the author touches upon history, politics, people and countries, culture, customs, cuisine, religion, parenthood, childhood, maternity, betrayal, freedom, loyalty, patriotism, humanity and love of course. Different subjects intertwine harmoniously, making the reader go through all kinds of emotions and feelings.
The book has a specific and distinctive way of raising awareness about the author’s country, Afghanistan. One hopes and wants to believe that, in some way, this actually helps the people living there.
On a sunny day, watching kids play, it is difficult even to imagine that somewhere else kids grow up thinking that war and daily struggle are the norm.
The book doesn’t fit in with the festive Christmas season so probably it’s best to read it either before or after the holidays. It is one of those books that help you to appreciate and cherish whatever good things you possess and to not take comfort and convenience for granted, but instead remember that there are people somewhere close who might need compassion, help, sympathy or even rescue.
Although both of Khaled Hosseini’s books have similar goals, they are put forward through two different stories that are both astonishing and unforgettable.
P.S. My review on "The Kite Runner" is available here.


lynn said...

This was such a moving book. Unbelievable pain and so convincing are the characters. It stays in my mind. I now have to read the Kite Runner - I've done it in reverse from you! I can't wait, as this is sure to be as captivating.

Tash said...

Thanks for the review - it's good to get an opinion from outside the US. I think it's wonderful that you translated The Alchemist! Well done.