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I read this book recently on holiday having been attracted to buying it because I really enjoyed reading The Kite Runner, also by the same author.
The book follows the lives of two women and how these lives then come together and evolve. It deals with many sensitive subjects regarding the lives of women in Afganistan. It serves as a bit of a history lesson and is interesting how women's lives changed as the Country's leadership changed, in particular the impact of the Taliban regime. Hosseini explains the historical context well which was useful for me as I only had limited knowledge of the country's background. He manages weave this into the story without it seeming out of place.
It may challenge your assumptions about Afgan women and bring them to life for you.
The story is incredibly captivating and keeps you turning the pages, it is however very sad. It is an extremely moving book which made me cry more than once. It does have a fairly happy ending. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. If you've read and enjoyed the kite runner you'll love this - I would say that this book is even better.
This book is written in such a breathtaking manner, Hosseini has truly shown what he is capable of writing through this. It is a personal favorite of mine which shows the journey of two young women through their lives in war torn Afghanistan, and their struggles to come to terms of deaths in both their family and friends. Whilst reading the story you are captivated by the way it is written, and how involved you become within it. This story shows a broken marriage which binds a friendship between two women, the question of love and whether it is possible, the joining of old loves and death. Mariam is a young girl who was brought up by her mother alone, she initially worked for Mariams' father. On the other hand the beauty Leila grew up in a loving home, she once had everything but events took a turn for the worst. A beautiful story, one I will relish in forever.
I bought this book a couple of years ago and never took to reading it. It was only until I watched the kite runner, Khaled Hosseini previous book that had been adapted to film, that I picked up thousand splendid suns to read. It didn't take long for me to be hooked. I feel a lot of people would have come across this book through the kite runner like I had done as it has been given a lot more attention, which I think is a real shame. Maybe because this time it is through the eyes of a girl and not a boy I could relate more to the characters emotions and become more attached. The book gives an insight into the lives of people in Afghanistan which I feel you can't always get by watching the news or reading news papers as not much personal emotion is conveyed. This book is a great inspirational read that will motivate you in your day to day read. I look forward to see if this book is also adapted into a film.
After having previously read 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini, which I enjoyed immensely I was urged by quite a few people around me to read 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'. I bought the book, but did not get around to reading it immediately due to a heavy workload. When I finally did pick it up one morning, I could barely tear myself away, and wished that I had started to read it sooner.
Set in Afghanistan, and outlining the lives of two women living under the Taliban regime, the book is beautifully written and manages to simultaneously conjure up visions of beauty and also unbearable sadness.
As someone who has read a countless number of books throughout my life, I must admit that I was shocked to be touched by a book to such an extent.
This book also taught me a lot about the Taliban regime that I had not previously known.
I found this book to be truly beautiful, and would recommend it to anyone
I was given A Thousand Splendid Sun by Khaled Hosseini for my birthday in December last year. However, I have only just read it as I had been told that it is a story which, because it is based on the history of the troubles in Afghanistan, is heart rending and in places very sad. During the earlier part of this year my family and I have had a worrying and difficult time and I didn't feel in the mood to read a sad book. Thankfully that time is past now and whilst on holiday in Greece I decided to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. I am so glad that I did.
From the first few words on the first page I was interested and captured by this book and found it really easy to read, even though the content can be explicit and harrowing. I always wanted to read the next page and the next to find out what was going to happen and found it really difficult to put down.
As mentioned previously, the story is set in Afghanistan and follows that country's history from about 1964 to 2003 through the eyes of the two main characters, Mariam and Laila. Mariam is a little girl at the beginning of the book and the story follows her through her early childhood to the time when just 15 and due to circumstances beyond her control, she is forced to marry a much older man. Mariam tries to make the best of this situation but her husband turns out not to be the kind man she thought he was and her life becomes very difficult. A few years on Mariam is introduced to a young teenage girl, Laila, who has suffered much heartache, distress and injury due to the fighting in Afghanistan. Over time Mariam and Laila form a strong bond which helps them to cope with the awful things that happen to them over the coming years.
Both Laila and Mariam become very strong women in the face of all that happens to them. They are an excellent example of how friendship and an indomitable spirit can help people to survive in the face of terrible tragedy and hardship.
There are several other characters, Tariq, Laila's childhood friend, who also shows a very strong character in coping with problems that are inflicted on him at an early age. Rasheed, Mariam's husband, who starts off being kind to Mariam in a brusque type of way but who changes when things do not go his way and becomes unbelievably brutal towards Mariam and later to Laila. Mariam's mother, who struggles to bring her up in the face of adversity and Laila's parents and Mariam's father.
I liked the way that Khaled Hosseini used Farsi (one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan) words in certain circumstances, explaining them where necessary in English. It made me feel that I was there in Afghanistan and I liked the fact that I had learned a tiny bit of the language at the same time. I found Khaled Hosseini to be a great story teller. I quickly become engrossed in the story and wanted to know more and more about the characters and their lives. He is also brilliant at conveying the thoughts and feelings of his characters so that you feel you really know them.
Parts of the book are quite explicit in their details of what happens to Laila and Mariam and it is very sad to think that these things have surely happened in this troubled country. However, I liked the fact that I was learning some of the history of what has happened as although the troubles there have taken place in my lifetime I did not fully understand all the lead up to the problems. Thanks to this book I now have a much better understanding of the recent troubled history of Afghanistan.
I would definitely recommend this book as an excellent and intriguing, dramatic and eventually heart warming story and am now going to read The Kite Runner by the same author as I believe it is equally brilliant.
The hype of the Kite Runner (Hosseini's previous book) passed me by and I read the blurb of A Thousand Splendid Suns and decided to give it a miss. However when it was highly recommended by a (male) work colleague and then coincidently found in a charity shop for a reasonable price I thought I'd give it a go (there's very little I won't read).
This story in three acts starts in Afghanistan in the 1970s and winds its way through the last 40 troubled years of Afghan history.
In Act One we are introduced to Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a well off Afghan businessman. Mariam lives with her mother in abject poverty on the outskirts of the city of Herat and hero worships her mostly absent father. When tragedy strikes Mariam turns to her father and is heart-broken and shocked by his response.
Next the story moves onto Laila, almost twenty years younger than Mariam she lives in the same area in Kabul as Mariam has ended up in. Her background is happier, with a father who dotes on her and Tariq, a close friend. However when her brothers go to war her mother becomes distant and depressed. As Laila grows up the various Afghani factions come to prominence and gradually encroach on her childhood.
Part three focuses on both Mariam and Laila. Through individual disasters they have ended up in the same household married to the same man, where their difference in age and background causes them to be rivals and, to a certain extent enemies. However in a country where women have no rights or freedoms will they be able to learn to rely on each other.
The characters in this book are fully fleshed out. I found it very easy to feel interested in both Laila and Mariam, enough detail was provided for me to feel like they were real people. The numerous supporting characters, whether major or minor, were also well described and 3 dimensional, with no one being purely evil or good. All the characters added to my understanding of the situation and drove the story on well.
The all important background (and in some situations cause) to the story is the various conflicts that have occured in Afghanistan over the past 40 years. This is not intended as a history book but I found it fascinating finding out the history of the current situation and as I've already said it's the conflicts that drive the women's stories.
The blurb on the back of the book makes this sound like a female buddy story, but actually that is only really developed during the final section of the book. It is a much more complex story looking at the lives of different females in Afghanistan. If I was to try and identify the genre of this book I would say it was a saga, but definitely not in the aga saga mould, as it covers events and issues across generations over forty years.
The author is not a woman. This was a surprise to me as the book was, sympathetically, written from a female point of view, highlighting how the condition and freedom of women in Afghanistan has changed in recent history. Hosseini was born in Afghanistan but his family moved to Europe for his father's work and then, to avoid the conflicts, emigrated to the USA where he still lives.
This is one of the most moving books I have ever read. It is a very gritty, and at times gloomy, tale lthough well interspersed with flashes of love, humour and hope. I found it fascinating on two levels - the stories of Mariam and Laila were gripping (found myself reading this until 3am on a work day); the underlying story of Afghanistan itself was subtle but interesting as a history of the current situation. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
I had already read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which I really enjoyed. They are both set in Afghanistan. They are not cheerful happy stories, but are thought provoking, interesting, educational and a gripping book.
The book follows the lives of 2 women, Marium and Laila. The book starts with the childhood of Marium. She lives with her mother and is desparate to be accepted by her Father, but is not accepted by him. Her mother commits suicide and Marium blames herself for this. After this she is accepted by her Fathers family, but is forced to marry at 15 years old, to Rasheed.
The book follows Marium later in her married live, showing how she is treated unfairly by her husband.
The book then looks at Laila growing up surrounded by war and death. She falls in love with Tariq but they are separated. She is then married to Rasheed and the book follows the lives of both women.
The story is both sad and very moving.
I was gripped by the story but found it an interesting way of learning about history and culture.
This book is a follow up novel by the author of the Kite Runner' & he's dedicated it to 2 women in particular 'and to all the women in Afghanistan'.
It's been called 'a suspenseful epic' (Telegraph) 'A triumph' (Financial Times' & recommended by Richard & Judy (whom I take no notice of whatsoever lol!). It's described as ...'an energetic & thought-provoking read' (Literary Review) & the Daily Telegraph describe Husseini possessing '...that rare thing, a Dickensian knack for storytelling''
We first meet Mariam when she's 15 - she has a confusing home-life & is sent to marry a man 30 years her senior - a bitter & highly troubled male. 20 years later she meets Laila & the 2 form a a deep sisterly bond.
I like Hussein's writing style plus the way the book (367 pages) is laid out - the chapters are fairly short but the ending of each makes me want to 'just read another - or maybe just one more...
In danger of sounding sexist here I've yet to find a male writer who shows such an understanding of women & a true empathy. Being married to someone from the middle east has meant I've gained more insight into the Muslim world & a Muslim country ( something I've been trying to fathom for 30 years!)
I'd say this book provides a deep & interesting insight into women's lives in a repressive, patriarchal society ( ie the s***t that females have to take). It's well written, educational & poignant. Sometimes it can be depressing, filled with abuse, violence & misery yet it's gripping from the first few pages.
With the passing of time Taliban rules & life in Kabul becomes a desperate struggle against brutality, starvation & fear yet the ending is uplifting....
I'm saying no more in case I give too much away but I would recommend this book to both men & women - it's surprising, heartbreaking yet has the message of love running through it.
If you enjoyed Kite Runner this is a must-have, if you haven't then it's worth looking our for this one if you see it on your book-searching travels.
It cost £11.99 from Waterstones & is published by Bloomsbury but I saw it in a charity shop for £1 which is a steal.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini is the follow up to the very successful "Kite Runner" Anyone who was moved by the Kite Runner should be more than satisfied with this follow up. Hosseini is skilled in telling events that appear unbearable and filled with violence, misery and abuse but manages to make them readable, although the book is filled with tragedies you get a sense that there will be a redemptive ending which makes the whole narrative slip down rather easily.
We follow the stories of two women. The book starts with Mariam who lives with her poor epileptic mother who practically bullies her. She longs to be with her rich father, but as an illegitimate child it would have brought dishonour on her father's family. She is married off by her father to an acquaintance in Kabul. As a reader you experience Mariam's trauma of living with a complete stranger, having to wear a burka and having to hide upstairs when visitors came. However a tentative hopefulness begins to grow in Mariam that she may be able to win some affection from her husband, especially when she becomes pregnant.
Hosseini vividly depicts what life is like for a woman in a society which they are only valued for reproduction and she lives in fear of her husband's constantly changing moods and she has to endure the beatings that he regularly gives.
In part two of the novel we see the life of the young Laila who grows up in a nice family whose father insists on her education. Hosseini is almost too careful to describe for ignorant westerners the political background to these women's lives, from the Soviet occupation that ruled Laila's childhood to the growing strength of the mujahideen that her brothers join.
Hosseini fortunately does not get too bogged down with Afghan politics and quickly we see Laila married to the same husband as Mariam.
You might think this novel is becoming too melodramatic, as one horror succeeds another, with rockets blowing families apart and attempted escapes and even murder, alongside the beatings and whippings and threats that make up the women's daily experiences. However this is the truth and there are many stories as melodramatic as this from real Kabul women.
Towards the end of the story, Hosseini produces a list of the things that Afghan women had to do under the Taliban rule an example being, if they were caught outside without their husband they would be beaten or killed.
For those that are worrying that the book is too melodramatic and sounds too sad, it is all wiped away as Laila and Mariam make friends and seek to find justice and redemption and the horrors that Hosseini expresses help to create the moving narrative that is A Thousand Splendid Suns.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is yet another triumphant novel by Hosseini. Set in Afghanistan, this novel provides a moving incite into the lives of women under a repressive patriarchal society.
It is carefully and poignantly written. It will have you gripped from the first page. This book is educative and evocative at the same time. I was moved to tears at several points, and was left thinking about the story for days after I had finished it.
The simplicity of the writing style makes the message within even more powerful. It is not a difficult read, but it is rewarding with every page and a real heart-stopper of a novel.
If you are looking for a book which is cleverly written, highly emotional, informative and gripping, this is the book for you. It is one which I will return to read again, once I have recovered from the initial trauma of the story.
I do not recommend reading it on the train if you are embarrassed to cry in public.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
I was in Waterstones the other week and they had a table of the '100 best books of the last decade' or some such. Anyway, I looked through (to see which ones I had read - about a quarter of them, I estimated) - but this was one I had bought and it was on the shelf at home, waiting to be read: So, prodded into action by this display, I nudged it up the priority list and got it out for a read. I am glad I did.
This novel follows the story of a couple of people linked by marriage, friendship, circumstance and childbirth, mainly two women who's paths are destined to cross and finally weave ever closer together.
Because the story is set in Afghanistan and the principle characters are women, much of the story happens within one house or another, as the paternalistic society and religious mores - at least as locally interpreted - prevent the women from going out much. The story, set in the period from 1959 to the middle of the last decade, is one of war, both the external, with invaders (or liberators, it depends on your viewpoint) and also civil wars - the warlords fighting to throw out the Soviets, then fighting each other, then fighting the Talban, then being re-equipped by the West to fight the Taliban again post-9/11.
Because the main protagonists are women the story is largely domestic, where the minutiae of life dominate and the massive events outside are a backdrop. And to be fair, it doesn't much matter which politician is in charge or which party dominant if you don't have enough food to eat or if your husband beats you whenever he comes home.
This is a violent and bloody book, but the violence is central to the story and not told for mere effect and in fact you almost find yourself accepting the appalling violence in these women's lives, so commonplace is it. At one point in the narrative, a family walk on a day out to an area of Kabul and pass under the hanging corpses of people executed by the Taliban for some crime or misdemeanour and it is only worth a passing mention and I was struck by how casual this was - imagine the efforts a British parent would go to in order to shield their young children from such a sight!
Bloody and with tragedy, this is nevertheless not a novel without hope, love or redemption and it is, I suppose, in part a testament to the triumph of human will to overcome and love of life.
I recommend this book as a good read, a good story and something of an eye-opener into Afghan society. It is easier, after reading this, to see why so many Afghan's might want to leave their country and seek asylum elsewhere - in fact, the real wonder is that so many want to stay.
My copy was published by Bloomsbury, is ISBN 978-0-7475-8297-7 and has a cover price of £11.99.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is the second book written by Khaled Hosseini.
I wanted to read this book as I'm an Iranian who has lived in Iran, and as Afghanistan and Iran are neighbouring countries, there are huge similarities.
This is an absolutely brilliant book depicting the lives of two extraordinary Afghani women who are thrown together under highly unusual circumstances. The book follows their struggle against extreme evil, hardship and victimisation. Mariam and Laila show incredible strength as women in a country torn apart by vicious war, and the untoward cruelty suffered by them at the hands of a shared husband whom both were forced to marry, is heartbreaking.
The characterisation is fantastic; both women are very distinct from each other and their different coping mechanisms and reactions lend an amazing authenticity. The magic of this novel is in these two characters, their development over the course of the novel, and their interactions with each other. Individually and together they try to overcome the many hardships which have befallen them, hardships they have no choice but to bear, and I was moved by each and every struggle.
Although this book is set in Afghanistan and gives glimpses of that country's history over the past forty years, it is really a personal story about people, not a tale of history, nation and religion. The careful reader will see that the women in this book are treated poorly by men, not religion - I think this is a point worth making after reading some reviews referring to the plight of the characters 'under Islam'. I did not gain this impression, if anything the women are comforted by their faith and not repressed by it.
This book moved me to tears, it is truly a remarkable and beautifully crafted novel. At times Hosseini paints harrowing and brutal scenes but always retains, through the characters of Mariam and Laila, humanity, spirit and above all love
This book came my way via a friend who told me it was fantastic and I would love it. Since we often have similar tastes in books I put it quite near the top of my "to read" pile and I looked forward to reading it.
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and grew up in the area until his father was transferred to Paris with his work. Because of the unrest the family chose not to return to Afghanistan and instead they headed for America and political asylum. He is now based in California and is a US goodwill envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency. He is a qualified MD although he is not currently practicing. His first novel was The Kite Runner, this is his second book and it was published in 2007.
I have not read The Kite Runner and wasn't sure what to expect of this book.
Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy business man. She lives with her mother who is obviously unwell but dotes on the father who comes to see her, regularly, every week. She does not fully comprehend her place in his world and when he doesn't arrive for an anticipated engagement with her she takes it upon herself to visit his home in the nearby town. Thus begins a catalogue of events that culminates in her being married to a much older man, Rasheed, in Kabul. She quickly settles to her new life and expectantly awaits the arrival of her first child.
Laila is a young daughter forever living in the shadow of her two brothers who are fighting for their country. Her lifelong friend, Tariq, is her constant companion and his parents expect them to marry when she is old enough. Laila's father is very forward thinking and expects his intelligent daughter to make something of herself in the world although she will still have to struggle with her mentally ill mother.
Their lives continue as the conflict in Afghanistan escalates, the enemy keeps changing along with the rules and gradually it becomes apparent that expectations will have to change. How will this backdrop affect Mariam and Laila, where will their future take them?
As soon as I started to read this book I was entranced by the beautiful writing style. The words flowed so effortlessly that I just did not want to put it down. Some writers just have the ability to draw you in from the first page and Khaled Hosseini certainly has that talent.
I sometimes find that if I have no common ground with a character in a book I can struggle to empathise with them. This was not the case here, Mariams life could not be more different from my own but she was so well-crafted that I felt I knew and understood her from the moment she was introduced. Her hopeful innocence is almost heart-breaking because you know it will be destroyed by the selfish people around her. Her strength of character show through right from the start and although she has to cope with great hardship she does it will a steely determination. Later in the book she is seen as being hard and uncaring when really she is just trying to protect her fragile self-esteem. I love the way that she was portrayed as a real person rather than some sort of martyr, she has true emotions and reactions and I think she is one of the best written characters that I have read for a long time.
The other characters are all just a carefully written. Laila is content with her lot but only has eyes for her friend Taliq. The descriptions of Taliq changing from a child into a young man were genuine and sensitively done and Lailas confusion at the shift in the relationship is evident.
The backdrop to their lives is the city of Kabul. The description of the city was brilliant; I could really picture the place and the home she moves in to. When Mariam first moves there it is a relatively peaceful place, it was the early 1970s and the fighting was happening in far flung parts of the country, the city was still a place of beauty and women's education and employment was actively encouraged. As the book develops it follows the shifts in power that were happening, how the heroes of one battle became the enemies of the next and of how the residents of Kabul just had to keep on plodding along with their lives. Many people left and those that remained learned to live under new regimes. The lives of women were particularly affected; they were no longer allowed to work or receive an education and were not allowed out of their homes without a male escort. Suddenly there was danger everywhere with no support and all women had to wear burqas or risk death. This book was written in a way that didn't sensationalise any of this but just put it into the context of something else that people had to contend with, their lives had to continue so they just had to cope even when their situations may have seemed hopeless.
The storyline itself was not as predictable as I had expected. Several times things happened that I didn't expect or people behaved in a very true-to-life way that is sometimes not anticipated in literature, this certainly kept my interest.
Overall I think that this was an excellent read. The book has over 400 pages and I read it in a couple of days as I really couldn't put it down. It introduced me to a world that I have seen on the television but have never really thought about at a grassroots level, I learnt a lot about the shifts in conflict that have happened over the last 30 years in Afghanistan. I like a book that has a great storyline, believable characters and beautiful writing and this had all three with abundance, definitely a book that I would recommend. My friend was right, I loved it.
Omnipresent on the London tube a few months ago, I had high hopes for this book after reading the Kite Runner. I was disappointed, then, to discover that A Thousand Splendid Suns is uninspiring, and indeed has none of the moral ambiguity, creativity or color that made the Kite Runner so interesting.
A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of two Afghani women. The first, Miriam, has a miserable childhood after being betrayed by her father and then by her abusive husband. Her husband later ads another wife, who had a happier childhood but who soon becomes another helpless, beaten wife. The theme here is subjugation, and Hosseini will beat you around the head with it every 50 pages or so in case you haven't gotten that yet.
The story goes, predictably, from misery memoir to sisterly bonding to happily ever after, inclusive of price charming. Perhaps the repetitive reminders of the doom and gloom that fills these womens lives would be useful for someone who has no idea of the Taliban, but for most readers it will be no news. Instead, both female leads never grow past their roles as tragic heroines, and the reader is left disappointed.
I would recommend that anyone interested in this very important topic read the Bookseller of Kabul, which his infinitely more interesting in just about every way.
Having read (and loved) the Kite Runner a couple of years ago, I started A Thousand Spendid Suns with a combination of excitement and worry- I desperately hoped this new book would live up to The Kite Runner's high standards. The result pleased me.
Although set in Afganistan too, A Thousand Spendid Suns differs from The Kite Runner in mnay ways. You could tell it's the same author, though the perspective it is written from is hugely different. The story follows the lives of two Afghani women- Mariam and Laila.
Mariam- the older of the women is the illegitimate child of a rich man and his servant. Her mother treated her with a great deal of contempt though taught Mariam her key strength- endurance.
Laila is very different to Mariam. About 15 years younger, and brought up in a modern family in Kabul ( a big city), she is probably the character most people will be able to relate to more as her mindet is nearer to that of today's Westerners.
I found Mariam and Laila to be equally heroic and the story itself fascinating- a beautiful insight into the "hopes, longings and disappointments" of the women in Afghanistan that are all too often forgotten.
Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry the troubled and bitter Rasheed, who is thirty years her senior. Nearly two decades later, in a climate of growing unrest, tragedy strikes fifteen-year-old Laila, who must leave her home and join Mariam's unhappy household. Laila and Mariam are to find consolation in each other, their friendship to grow as deep as the bond between sisters, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. With the passing of time comes Taliban rule over Afghanistan, the streets of Kabul loud with the sound of gunfire and bombs, life a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, the women's endurance tested beyond their worst imaginings. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism. In the end, it is love that triumphs over death and destruction. A Thousand Splendid Suns is an unforgettable portrait of a wounded country and a deeply moving story of family and friendship. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely bond and an indestructible love.