A Thousand Splendid Suns

Thoughts   A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, RiverHead Books 2007, 367 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I was eager to read this book based on the many fabulous reviews.   I was ready to read it now because I wish for more diverse settings in my reading.    This satisfies another read for ASIA for my Global Challenge.    It is also an excellent selection for the Women Unbound Challenge.

FIRST SENTENCE:   “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   This book is the intersecting stories of two orphan girls a generation apart in Kabul Afghanistan.   Beginning in the 1970s through today and set against the political wars of this country, we meet Mariam and Laila and are immersed in their dreams, their fears, their decisions, and the processes of survival.

I love literature like this set in a country often in the news and usually misunderstood, at least by me.   We are given images on TV of dust and drab, of soldiers armed, and citizens scurrying and we (I) don’t take the time to realize these are people!   People trying to make a life, having few choices, making the best of what is.    (WHY?!   How?   I don’t get why we fight.)     I am sad when I am presented (in print) with lush images of beautiful landscapes that may exist or existed once, that I am surprised that that part of the world could be lovely.    I am sad that the cultural and historical heritage has been so decimated by war.    A Thousand Splendid Suns gives a beautiful representation of lost Afghanistan and what has gone on ‘over there.’    War sucks.    This book may be fiction but literature makes the world come alive more than the news ever seems to.

Hosseini can write.    Easy but powerful prose, instant transportation into the world of the characters, palpable.   The most striking and memorable reminder I took away from this experience is that people are people.    The cruelty that exists in this world is just not understandable!   and we humans somehow can survive horrible conditions with goodness intact.    The human condition is multi-faceted.   The triumph of the human spirit is astonishing.

“In the coming days, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next.   Like an art lover running out of a burning musuem, she would grab whatever she could  – a look, a whisper, a moan – to salvage from perishing, to preserve.  But time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all.”

“I’m sorry,”  Laila says, marveling at how every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief.  And yet, she sees, people find a way to survive, to go on.

“And then, from the darkened spirals of her memory, rise two lines of poetry, Babi’s farewell ode to Kabul:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

– generally accepted translation by Dr. Josephine Davis of a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet

This is Hosseini‘s second book;  his debut, The Kite Runner, was also critically received.   I look forward to more.

RATING:    Five slices of pie.

OTHER REVIEWS:     So many!!   So I will point to  the search results from Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search Engine.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

34 thoughts on “A Thousand Splendid Suns

  1. For some reason, while I liked this one, I didn’t fall over loving it. It struck me as good, but nothing special, possibly because I’ve read a LOT of books about this part of the world? I do want to read The Kite Runner one day.

  2. I am probably the last person on earth who hasn’t read either one of Hosseini’s books. Bad Trisha. I will say though that your review has me wondering if I should read this one.

  3. I read The Kite Runner and saw the movie, because it was such a good book even though horrible things happen. But I still need to get over that experience before I can willingly jump into painful circumstances again!

    1. I was disappointed with the Kite Runner movie but it could be that I really didn’t want to see images of it, if that makes sense.
      I know what you mean.

  4. Do you think this book would work for a reader who doesn’t know anything AT ALL about Afghanistan? I’ve been nervous about reading Hosseini because I feel so completely ignorant about Afghani history.

    1. Yes, this is a great introduction. He makes the country tangible and never insults the reader with assumptions and yet you never feel ‘educated’.

  5. I’ve read The Kite Runner but haven’t gotten to this one yet. Sounds like it has some similar vibes – what with the harshness but also good writing. Thanks for the review!

    1. I know, I know. And then I saw a few posts that talked about what is real or not in memoirs and it reminded me that I wrote this sentence. interesting, no?

  6. Oh Care, this was one of the most beautiful, heartfelt reviews I’ve ever read. Did you convince me that I need to read this book? Yeah, without question.

    1. Oh Debi, you flatter me so, I’m blushing. GOOD to *see* you here! Thanks for your comment. and I look forward to your thoughts on this book – go read it!

  7. I haven’t read this one, because The Kite Runner devastated me so much. I read the entire last half of the book laying in bed crying my eyes out. I keep looking at this one but am not sure I can take the emotional output!!

  8. I haven’t read either of the two books, but I still want to. I’ve heard they’re really powerful & your review definitely validates that!

  9. I have had this one sitting on my nightstand since it came out but have yet to get to it. Sounds like I need to remedy that soon–which you would think I would figure out given my reaction to The Kite Runner.

    1. You sound like me! I had it in the house for so long and kept putting it off until I was too disappointed in myself not to move it to NOW and not just ‘next’.

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