Avesta Aria, 12 years old, from London
A thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini has yet again amazed readers with his unique story telling talent in his latest novel, A thousand Splendid Suns.
His last novel, The Kite Runner, was published at just the right time, when all the media focus was on Afghanistan and the Taliban, so people were keen to know more about this war torn country. Once reading the Kite Runner people got a detailed insight into Afghanistan and the tough lives of ordinary civilians living there. It is combined with a never-ending friendship between 2 boys, Hassan and Amir. The novel proved hugely popular and successful internationally, selling more than 4 million copies on top of being on the best seller list for 2 years.
While The Kite Runner was mainly based on the relationships between fathers and sons the second book A thousand splendid Suns is based more on the relationship between mothers and daughters. It is about the companionship of two women both with different backgrounds, born in different generations, yet bought together by war and fate. Although containing a fictional story, A thousand Splendid Suns also educates readers on the history of Afghanistan over a 30 year time period, starting with the closing stages of the monarchy right down to the present-day reign of the Taliban.
The story is based on two women, Mariam and Laila, both Tajik, who are eventually forced to marry the same man, Rasheed, an ethnic Pashtun.
The first few chapters are based on uneducated Mariam, an illegitimate daughter of Jalil - a wealthy man, and Nana, a housemaid. The chapters end with Nana committing suicide and 15- year old Mariam being married off to Rasheed, a shoemaker in his forties. Mariam is taken to Kabul, forced to wear a burqa and is treated no better than an unwanted servant.
Two decades later, down the road, good-looking Laila grows up in an educated family with an intellectual father. Laila is encouraged to pursue her education and has clear aspirations in life, but finds her life in ruins when a rocket lands on her house and her parents are killed. Furthermore, her beloved best friend, Tariq leaves Kabul with his parents and become a refugee in Pakistan. She later discovers she is pregnant with Tariq’s baby, and knows she has one way of surviving in Kabul. Fourteen at the time, Laila, decides to marry Rasheed who is now in his sixties.
Eventually, Laila become close friends with Mariam, and they both help each other bear with the rage and beatings of Rasheed.
When it seems life cannot possibly get any worse – it does. The Taliban arrive at Kabul with their brutal laws leaving women to do nothing other than be imprisoned in their own homes, abandoned from everything, only left to do house chores and obey their husbands. Although this may seem insane to most, it does not differ much from Mariam and Laila’s real lives...
Filled with love, friendship and a courageous sacrifice, this book is highly recommended for anyone looking to know more about the lives of people in Afghanistan – not coming from the media, but an afghan author.