BookBrowse Reviews A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini X
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
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  • First Published:
    May 2007, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2008, 384 pages

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A chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship and love from the author of The Kite Runner

Unsurprisingly, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini's follow up to The Kite Runner, has received very wide review coverage. You'll find reviews from about a dozen different critics at BookBrowse (as always abbreviated to the reviewer's essential opinion to avoid both plot spoilers and repetition). Some critics love it, some are lukewarm, but even those who write less than glowing reviews have to admit that, whatever Hosseini's literary weaknesses might be, he does write very compelling storylines and is indisputably one of the world's nicer human beings.

Having viewed Afghanistan through the lives of two men in The Kite Runner, Hosseini turns his attention to the lives of two women whose stories start at very different points but converge about half way through the book, at which point the tale starts to take on a real sense of momentum and authority.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a more ambitious novel than The Kite Runner, with a wider and deeper historical and cultural scope that illuminates the last three decades of Afghan history during which the country has been inflicted by coups and counter-coups, an anti-Soviet jihad, civil war, warlord and Taliban tyranny, and post 9/11 conflict.

What makes it so approachable are its universal themes of love, friendship, betrayal and redemption that affirm the humanity of ordinary Afghans while revealing the horrors of the society they live in. Because of recent events almost all of us are more familiar with Afghanistan than we were a decade ago, but it is difficult to feel a connection with a place that we know only through news reports. A Thousand Splendid Suns gives us a window into the heart and soul of the ordinary Afghan people while condemning the governments and groups that have brought the country to its knees, enabling us to imagine how we would react if the wheel of fate had placed us in the position of one of the book's characters.

Cynical readers may find A Thousand Splendid Suns a little too melodramatic and sentimental for their tastes. However, what redeems these elements is that, when viewed individually, nothing that happen to Mariam or Laila is implausible in a society that places women so low in the pecking order; where oppressive cultural mores ensure that, however lowly a man's status might be in the community, he can be a despot in his own home.

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.

More Information

If you want to know more about the lives of women in Afghanistan, read Veiled Courage, an inspiring book about the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), whose clandestine activities defied the forces of the Taliban and who continue their work in Afghanistan today supporting projects in schools, orphanages, hospitals, providing literacy programs, food distribution and more.

Another charity that helps people in Afghanistan and Pakistan is Greg Mortenson's Central Asian Institute which builds schools in rural parts of both countries. Read his inspiring story in Three Cups of Tea.

Another well reviewed book is Kabul in Winter (2007) by relief worker Ann Jones who reports that an estimated 95 percent of women in Kabul are victims of domestic violence.

If you've been considering reading The Kabul Beauty School, or have read it and are planning to recommend it to others, please first read this news story.

For more about Khaled Hosseini and his books, see his biography at BookBrowse, and the two separate interviews in which he discusses The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007); his experience growing up in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban; the role of women in Afghan society; how Afghans view the USA, and much else. We also have reading guides for both books.


Did you know?

The title of A Thousand Splendid Suns comes from a poem about Kabul by Saib-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet, who wrote it after a visit to the city left him deeply impressed.

Hosseini is a US goodwill envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and is presently working with the organization on the Aid Darfur campaign. He hopes that his future work with the agency will take him to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.

A movie based on The Kite Runner was filmed in China in 2006 and released in 2007. A movie based on A Thousand Splendid Suns is scheduled for release in 2009.

This review was originally published in June 2007, and has been updated for the November 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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