Running out of options

NaBloPoMo August logo34. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Suns & Tears

Image by д§mд via Flickr

I finished reading this book last night, after finally picking it up off the shelf on Friday (I think), even though it was given to me getting on for two years ago. I’m really not sure why I hadn’t read it at the time, or during the intervening period – I hadn’t heard anything negative about it, and it’s now turned out to be a very well-written, informative and heart-rending book.

It is the story first of Mariam, born in 1959 on the outskirts of the city of Herat, married off at 15 to Rasheed, who takes her to live in Kabul, and then also of some of her neighbours (in particular Laila, born when Mariam is about 20), and through them of  Afghanistan during several decades of conflict, change, and oppression from within and without.

I will admit to knowing far less than I should about the modern history of Afghanistan, and this book certainly helped to pull the various bits and pieces I had heard into some kind of coherent chronology. In particular, I hadn’t really realised just how fast the major regime changes have actually happened. Laila was born a year or two after I was, and goes through the influence of the Communists, the Mujahadin, the Taliban, and the US-led invasion (the book ends in 2003, although it was published in 2007), just in the period she can really remember. (Mariam becomes aware of politics when there’s still a monarcy, too.) While Islam is a constant (one of very few) throughout, the form it takes (and in particular, how/if that is enforced) changes back and forth radically, particularly in what had been the cosmopolitan city of Kabul.

There aren’t any simple relationships in this book, which is part of its realism, particularly under the extreme stress placed upon them and the individuals involved by the  constantly changing and usually harsh regimes and conflicts they’re trying to live through. It definitely had me in tears several times.

I still haven’t read Hosseini’s first book, The Kite Runner, but will have to take the chance when I get it.

NB the picture is not mine, but was suggested by Zemanta and is being used under Creative Commons. (It’s the closest to the edition I have, and a great picture, besides.)

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