Posted by: beansai | June 9, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

     I began reading this book simply to pass the time, but quickly it became more than just a filler. Perhaps it is cliche to say so but this tale following the lives of two women from the late 1950’s to the early 2000’s is heartbreaking. Of course that is not the only quality to this book. It is filled with round, quietly compelling female heroines supported by a variety of others characters from gentle, kind-hearted men to dispicable abusive husbands and the terror of war.

     Hosseini’s tale of life in modern Afghanistan is haunting with subtle currents of hope weaving throughout the story. I admit there were times when I was unsure of where this story would end when injustice followed by more injustice consumed the lives of the main female characters. I had hoped to encounter a story of female equality being fought for and rewarded, but Hosseini doesn’t spare his characters or his readers the hardships and unfairness of reality. You truly endure with these women as they live on the cusp of change – back and forth between modern ideologies of rights and equality and strict traditional values. Being a modern female reader I had to cringe at the turn for these characters and how society and war pushed them back behind veils and walls, stripping them of even basic human rights.

     I had also hoped to find some redeeming quality for a belief structure I understand very little of, hoped that there would be some quality of life I had never been told about. While I’m not sure I found that redemption, I was reminded through Hosseini’s compassionate story-telling and variety of characters that governments, social constructs, religious structures often don’t reflect the mind-set of an entire people, especially on the edge of change.A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns

     This book isn’t about war and which side is right or wrong. This book is about the innocent lives entangled, uprooted and lost in the midst of such wars.

     While I enjoyed Hosseini’s writing and the flow of the language, I certainly had some issues with it. Why is it that babies are always what makes a woman happy? It’s bad enough that education is denied these women, the right to walk to the store alone, and they are married to an abusive husband. But what will make it all better? Babies, of course! Because a man who is willing to beat his wife would never consider hitting a child. Because it isn’t hard enough to keep one’s self alive during such times of war so let’s all have babies! Even at the end when Laila, one of the main characters, gets to be something more than just mother, she doesn’t do anything beyond a typical female occupation. Perhaps I’m being ungenerous though. It is advancement, it is more than you imagine her achieving three quarters of the way through the book. But why doesn’t she go back to school? Why doesn’t she study to be something? I know that after all the sacrifices and pain endured up to this point means that even the smallest of happiness is a win, is evidence of more than just enduring, but the feminist in me still isn’t thrilled. It was too much cost for too little gain in my opinion.

     And another thing I can’t reconcile myself to is the need to return to a person’s hometown, especially after it has been ravaged by war and painful memories. I understand it in the context of the book, but I generally find it a weird complusion to be so tied down to a land. Or maybe I just have major commitment issues and won’t even be tied down to land. But enough of my harping on the small things that bothered me. All in all this really was an interesting book with a nice variety of characters and moving story. I don’t know that I would read it again – maybe some day, far down the road. I do know that I will definitely give Hosseini’s other book The Kite Runner a read (as well as give the movie a watch afterward).

Definitely worth the read



  1. Hey, small suggestion to make your articles look a little more pretty, you could add the book cover in. While your reviews are pretty thorough, it’s a lot f text to hit the eyes. A nice pretty book cover in the corner or at the bottom where you put your stars would be cute. I dunno, silly thing, but I like that kind of crap.

    • Actually I really like that idea! 😀 I have a few ideas of how I might break up the block of text with the book cover idea. Thanks! 🙂

      • Hmmm, I’m not sure I said the word “idea” quite enough in that comment. I really could have thrown in a few more. 😛

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