A Thousand Splendid Suns

So, Afghanistan pretty much sucks.

Not inherently, of course. (I’m sure it’s lovely in the springtime.) But it’s had various inhabitants over the past 30-odd years that have made it really hard to kick back and enjoy the scenery. Especially if you’re a girl.

Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns has oft been described to me as “the sequel to The Kite Runner, told from a woman’s point of view.” That’s half true; it’s not a sequel (as I mentioned in an earlier post), but it is told entirely from the perspectives of two women. The novel begins with Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man. Forced to marry, Mariam finds herself wedded to a strict husband whose brutal tendencies begin to emerge as she proves incapable of bringing a child to term. After nearly twenty miserable years, Mariam’s husband takes another wife, Laila—a beautiful young woman, newly and secretly pregnant, who agrees to marry so she can save her reputation and protect her absent lover’s unborn child. The relationship between the two imprisoned and abused wives is the essence of the story.

I’m having a hard time pinpointing what I think about this novel. The writing is good; the story is good. And it does an excellent job of exposing the misery and helplessness endured by women in the clutches of an extremist society. But I do think Hosseini veers toward the simplistic in both his books, creating bad men who are too one-sided to be interesting. Of course, his subjects are abusive husbands and Taliban bigwigs: what choice does he have? Still, I would say that at times his “big” stories and “bad” characters undermine the best parts of his novels—those that bypass the inarguable evils and explore simple humanity.

4 thoughts on “A Thousand Splendid Suns

  1. This is one of my favorite novels in recent memory. I loved the relationship between the women. Makes me feel so bad for what Middle Eastern women have suffered and continue to suffer. But I thought it was really inspiring at the same time, it shows people surviving and finding happiness in spite of the bad.

  2. I preferred the Kite Runner to this one. I still liked this one, but for me it wasn’t quite as interesting. I just really liked the beginning of the Kite Runner with the kids’ rivalry and the kite running. This one was still good though.

  3. I know exactly what you mean, Lisa. With both of his novels, Hosseini grabs me and then loses me. He is so good at certain moments, but then he gets all Blockbustery and it just turns me off.

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