Jun 20, 2011

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I can say this is one of those books that haunt you for days after reading it. With its characters, the plot, the background. The writer Khaled Hosseini has done an amazing job in bringing in front of us the lives of common people in a war-struck backward country like Afghanistan. How a war between countries and forces, leaves the common man devastated and deprived of everything that they actually deserve.

Afghanistan which had been under war for almost 3 decades - first from Soviets, then the Mujahideen and then Taliban... The story is laid out over the last 4-5 decades of which three decades are of war. How a country which apparently was in a ‘developing’ state is ruined completely by these wars, is beautifully and painfully pictured. Women, during these times were the most affected, I can say - of course men were affected too, but most of the times, they were either killed, or continued to live as before, whereas, women were subjected to all kinds of violence, deprived of even the basic amenities like food, healthcare, etc, forget about education and other things, which were not even imaginable!

The story starts with Mariam, an illegitimate child of a wealthy person, who realizes very early in life that she would have to endure many many more pains in life and that was just the beginning. She loses her mother in her early teens and is married off to Rasheed, thirty years older than her, in far off Kabul. She has a series of miscarriages and along with the losses of her to-be-borns, she also looses whatever little regard Rasheed has for her. She is neglected, ignored and more than that is subjected to his violence, which she silently endures.

Laila on the other hand is a young girl, whose parents are with modern thoughts, who comes with the school of thought that women are equal to men, and that education is as important to women as it is for men, and that a country can progress only if its women are a part of the progress. Unfortunately her life is shattered too, when the bombings take her parents’ lives and her lover’s family flees to Pakistan, leaving her pregnant. With no one to approach and no where to go, she, herself 14, has to agree to marry Rasheed who is now in his mid forties.

She delivers a baby girl and so she too looses the love and regard she initially received from her husband, and eventually there is no difference in how both the wives are treated. The Taliban regime would have started then and there would be a thousand laws forbidding women from doing anything else other than enduring their men’s violence, leaving them no option for anything. The two women develop a unique bond of friendship and love in those hardships, and support each other in whatever way they can.

And finally Mariam decides her own course of her life for the first time in her life and sacrifices herself for Laila to lead a proper life. And she lives on, beyond the war to rebuild hope in Afghanistan, along with her second husband Tariq and her children.

Well, what I liked in the novel is the writer’s way of telling the story. It flows out naturally in a simple way, and yet each line delivers a heavy message. We should be ashamed for what is happening around us in all those war-struck countries, not just this one. People in one part of the world do not have access to food, water or healthcare at a time when we, in many other countries are leading a luxurious life, having whatever we want. Our own contemporaries were subjected to so much of violence when we were busy coding on our high end machines, to solve the Y2K issue! They didn’t have water or food for days together when we were introduced to Pizzas, burgers and KFCs! I wonder what is it that is achieved in a war?

Overall, a wonderful read.... just loved it till the end. Was terribly moved by it... Looking forward to more such books from Khaled Hosseini.


  1. One more book to order!
    Excellent review.

  2. I am really impressed by Khalid Hosseini, both his books have a simple narrative, local flavor and very humane in approach. His Kite Runner remains my favorite till date. He doesn't try to show off by using difficult words and expressions, his stories are relevant and very very touching. I think this book should be made into a movie..Shabana Azmi should play Mariam..but can not think of any actress who can play Laila..I was disappointed with 'Kite Runner the movie..essence was lost completely :(

  3. I personally felt that Kite Runner was a story which Hosseini wanted to "tell" and Thousand Splendid Suns was a story he wanted to "sell". Good book none the less :)

  4. @ Sahana
    Thanks! Yup, u need to read this one....

    True Preeti, In such a simple way, he delivers such a strong story... I too was thinking this should be made a movie.. but then afraid that the essence will be lost!

    @the orchestra of life
    Thanks for dropping by... Now i should read the 'Kite Runner'!