Summary and book reviews of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns
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  • Hardcover: May 2007,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2008,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them - in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul - they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

1

Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

It happened on a Thursday. It must have, because Mariam remembered that she had been restless and preoccupied that day, the way she was only on Thursdays, the day when Jalil visited her at the kolba. To pass the time until the moment that she would see him at last, crossing the knee-high grass in the clearing and waving, Mariam had climbed a chair and taken down her mother's Chinese tea set. The tea set was the sole relic that Mariam's mother, Nana, had of her own mother, who had died when Nana was two. Nana cherished each blue-and-white porcelain piece, the graceful curve of the pot's spout, the hand-painted finches and chrysanthemums, the dragon on the sugar bowl, meant to ward off evil.

It was this last piece that slipped from Mariam's fingers, that fell to the wooden floorboards of the kolba and shattered.

When Nana saw the bowl, her face flushed red and her upper lip shivered, and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The phrase "a thousand splendid suns," from the poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi, is quoted twice in the novel – once as Laila's family prepares to leave Kabul, and again when she decides to return there from Pakistan. It is also echoed in one of the final lines: "Miriam is in Laila's own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns." Discuss the thematic significance of this phrase.

  2. Mariam's mother tells her: "Women like us. We endure. It's all we have." Discuss how this sentiment informs Mariam's life and how it relates to the larger themes of the novel.

  3. By the time Laila is rescued from the rubble of her home by Rasheed and Mariam, Mariam's marriage has become a ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Some readers may find A Thousand Splendid Suns a little too melodramatic and sentimental for their tastes. This reviewer started off cynical but was entirely won over by the end - starting the book in the evening and waking up before dawn to finish it, reading by fading flashlight as the sun rose and the pages blurred through the tears.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

In the end it is these glimpses of daily life in Afghanistan — a country known to most Americans only through news accounts of war and terrorism — that make this novel, like The Kite Runner, so stirring, and that distract attention from its myriad flaws.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

Hosseini's depiction of Mariam and Laila's plight would seem cartoonishly crude if it were not, by all accounts, a sadly accurate version of what many Afghan women have experienced. The romantic twists and fairy-tale turns are not so accurate. But, as in The Kite Runner, they are precisely what make the novel such a stirring read. B+

The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley

A Thousand Splendid Suns is popular fiction of the first rank, which is plenty good enough, but it is not literature and should not be mistaken for such ... Many of us learned much from The Kite Runner. There is much more to be learned from A Thousand Splendid Suns. It is, for all its shortcomings, a brave, honorable, big-hearted book.

Minneapolis Star Tribune - John Freeman

The texture of these characters' journey around the craters of their country is no doubt well known to readers of international news. Rendered as fiction in A Thousand Splendid Suns, however, it devastates in a new way. It forces us to imagine what we would do had we been born to such grim fates.

San Francisco Chronicle - Julie Foster

Hosseini's bewitching narrative captures the intimate details of life in a world where it's a struggle to survive, skillfully inserting this human story into the larger backdrop of recent history.

Booklist - Kristine Huntley

Starred Review. Unimaginably tragic, Hosseini's magnificent second novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hosseini gives a forceful but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status.

The London Times - Tom Deveson

One problem is that historical and political concerns are too observably wheeled into place .... You can almost see pencil lines being drawn in the margin by earnest book-group readers.

The Guardian - Natasha Walter

Where Hosseini's novel begins to sing is in depicting the slowly growing friendship of the two wives in the face of the horrific abuse from their shared husband.

The London Times - Joan Smith

In A Thousand Spended Suns, Hosseini is not just more assured, although this feels like the work of a much more accomplished writer. If he cut his teeth by writing about his countrymen, it is the plight of Afghanistan’s women that has brought him to realise his full powers as a novelist.

Reader Reviews
Ceid O'Hara

A Thousand Splendid Poos...
This book, in my opinion, was an utter disgrace to the Afghani society. Women there have been treated fairly for the past 1000 years. As I am a pure blooded, traditional Afghani male, I believe in the good intentions of Allah, and his demi gods. ...   Read More

R. B

a Thousand Splendid Suns
Excellent!! Thumbs up!! Love the author's writing style. Can't wait for the next book!!

Karlene

A thousand splendid suns
I couldn't put it down. A truly powerful and emotional story. It gave me a new appreciation of the plight of women in third world countries.

Y.Abbasi

SPEECHLESS
It was un-put-downable. It's a realistic point of view of what life can be and what you make of it. Its the ultimate story of sacrifice, love and tyranny. Hosseini has outdone some of the best writers of the 21st century in a way that can't be ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Afghanistan

Afghanistan lies on the historically important trading routes between the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. As a result of numerous invasions and migrations it is made up of many different ethnic groups including Baluch, Chahar Aimak, Turkmen, Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Nuristani, Arab, Kirghiz, Pashai and Persian.

Historically, the Pashtun nationality has been the most dominant representing about 50% of the total population. ...

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