Saturday, July 24, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A fun way to add variety to review formats this meme was created by Alipet at That's A Novel Idea.

Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here has the Mr Linky each week so we can link up our posts .
1 Book I read: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

2 Words that describe the book: Women/Oppression

3 Settings and/or Characters I met:
  • The novel is set in Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan from 1960's - 2003. The title, which has always intrigued me, comes from the translation of poem about Kabul.
"Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye

Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls"

  • Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of an Herat businessman and his servant. She and her mother live alone but when the mother dies her father takes her in but is unable to withstand the pressure from his three wives to send her away. Mariam is only fifteen but her father marries her off to a much older man, Rasheed, from Kabul. Unable to give her husband children her life becomes increasingly abusive and cruel.
  • Laila is a generation younger than Mariam. She lives on the same street and is the child of progressive parents. Her father was a university lecturer and he wants his daughter to be educated. When a missile kills Laila's parents it is Rasheed who rescues her and takes her to his home. In order to survive she has no choice but to accept Rasheed's offer to marry her despite Mariam's protests.
4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:
  • I liked , despite the fact this is a heartbreaking and disturbing novel of war, loss and endless cycles of recurring oppression, that the theme of love , hope and the courage of the human spirit really shines through.
  • I liked learning more of the history of Afghanistan and of the lives of the women particularly. I hadn't realised how much progress and freedom the Soviets had brought to Afghan women. When Laila is attending school one of her teachers  - "Khala Rangmaai did not wear makeup or jewelry. She did not cover and forbade the female students to do it. She said men and women were equal in every way." One of the most poignant passages in the book is when, several years later and the Taliban is now in control, Laila is visiting her daughter in the orphange and sees her old teacher, fully covered and unable to support her children. How sad that this huge backward step was inflicted on these women by their own people.
  • I liked the relationship that developed between Mariam and Laila. It begins with intense resentment and dislike but slowly, as they suffer Rasheed's increasing violent abuse , they begin to look to each for help and support. United by their love for Laila's daughter and hatred for their husband together they find a way to survive and their love will lead to shattering climax.
  • I liked the straightforward style of writing - it's simple but evocative of time and place and  both moving and beautiful.
5 Stars or less for my rating

4.5 Stars.....................I thought it was a wonderful book. It's one that's been on my 'must read' list for so long and as often happens now I have read it I wonder why I took so long. I can now look forward to The Kite Runner


  1. I absolutely loved The Kite Runner and have had this one on my list for quiet some time. Based on your review it sounds like a similar story in that you really get invested in the characters.

  2. I liked this book even more than TKR - which surprised me. Just a wonderful novel.

  3. I have this sitting on my TBR pile also, I loved the Kite Runner, so if this is half as good, ... thank you for your wonderful review, now I'm anxious to get on with mine.

  4. So happy you liked this book! It was so touching - I loved it. In my opinion, The Kite Runner is a lot sadder! Hope you get to read it soon.

  5. Great review! I am going to have to get a copy of this for myself. Thanks.

  6. I look forward to The Kite Runner although I'll wait a while before reading it. This one really was something special and one I'll remember.

    Thanks for dropping by! :-)

  7. I've been meaning to read this ever since I read "The Kite Runner." It sounds like an amazing read and one that opens your eyes to this culture as well.

  8. What really struck me after reading the book was that the author is a man. The name is foreign so I had identified him as a woman because his portrayal of the women's lives and empathy with them was so marked. It is written very much from the women's point of view and I find this rare in male writers.. wonderful book, would always recommend it to people, also as you say for how much it teaches you about the politics and recent history of Afghanistan.
    much love martine

  9. Excellent review and a reminder to me to get this one down off the bookshelf.

  10. I cant wait to read this one! I love what the title means and I so enjoyed Kite Runner I know this will be wonderful.

  11. Strange how this is a book we all don't get round to reading quickly. I do hope you will soon and enjoy as much as I did.

    Martine - I agree, and maybe even more amazing considering the attitude towards women by many Afghan men.