A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is Khaled Hosseini’s second novel, the first being The Kite Runner, which I did read last year. If you loved The Kite Runner, you’d love this book. I think they are about the same level. In fact, I had some dejavu while reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both are set in Kabul around 1970s. Though this book tells more chronological events that happened in Afghanistan, the Soviet attack, the civil wars, the Taliban, US intervention, etc.

This book tells the story of two women. The first part tells the story of Mariam, a harami, illegitimate child. The second part, Laila, a child of an educated man, though defeated by the war, and a very sad mother. The book consists of 4 parts. Third part is when their paths meet.

Now I was a bit skeptical when I found out the story is told from two views. I’m not a fan of multiple perspectives in book. It makes me very aware that I’m reading fiction and makes the characters more distant too (since you have to divide your attention and care to more than one character). At the end I thought the double perspectives was okay. It’s probably necessary if you have two main characters and not one.

There are more things that made me very aware that I was reading fiction. I found some details were a bit unbelievable. Like how someone could be severely beaten and left without water or food for three days and still alive. How someone could be having a Caesarean section without anesthetic and still alive. But who knows, perhaps body of a human being could endure far worse than we imagine.

I thought the end was a bit too neat and too happy. Again, fiction. But hey, it’s informative and enjoyable (as a book). It provides some details and timeline about what happened in Afghanistan, about women’s life in that part of the world, their struggles and suffering as women. A good book for armchair traveller. I have teared up at some points in the book, though at some other points I thought it’s being overly melancholy or melodramatic. Well in many ways, A Thousand Splendid Suns invoked the same feelings I had for The Kite Runner. Some good, some bad, but the final tally is still pretty good.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pages: 372
Publication year: 2007

2008 Richard&Judy Best Read of the Year [source: Galaxy British Book Awards]

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

Last line
Because, if it’s a girl, Laila has already named her.

Also reviewed by

Books on the Brain | Blue Archipelago | Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage! | caribousmom | Lesley’s Book Nook | S. Krishna’s Books | Maw Books Blog | Devourer of Books | Trish’s Reading Nook | The Hidden Side of Leaf | Book Haven | Rhinoa’s Ramblings | So Many Books So Little Time | Books Lists Life | ReadingAdventures | The Inside Cover | Out of the Blue | The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness | bendaniel.org | Lost in Books | Semicolon | In the Shadow of Mt. TBR | Ticket to Anywhere | U Krakovianki (negative review) | The World as I see it | A Reader’s Journal | It’s All About Books! | Random Musings | Bookworms’ blog | Mind Over Matter | Musings

Suggested Further Reading by Bloomsbury

[Reading Guide]

Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A Married Woman by Manju Kapur
The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra

The Sewing Circles of Herat by Christina Lamb
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

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21 thoughts on “A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini”

  1. Mee, thanks for your review. I saw the movie The Kite Runner but never read the book. Perhaps I should read this one by the author instead.

  2. You know I’ve seen this and his other book around an awful lot but for some reason I’ve never had a great urge to read them. I really don’t know why that is, especially since it’s gotten such rave reviews. I guess it’s one of the weird things that happens.

    I’m not sure if you could be beaten and left without food or water and still survive, but I think you could probably survive a C-section. People used to get their limbs lopped off before they invented anesthesia and survived. A C-section couldn’t be too much worse could it? Then again, I’m not sure if I want to find out for sure either! lol. = )

  3. Kailana: Take your time :)

    Suko: A Thousand Splendid Suns has 2 women as main characters so it’s somehow more “feminine”. But people all have different opinions. I think half thinks one is better than the other, and half thinks otherwise.

    J.S. Peyton: Well, that happens to me too to some books, but on the right time I may pick up the urge (or never, though never say never :). Well, you’re right about the C-section. You reminded me about primitive amputation and all. I don’t wanna go much into it either lol. It’s too scary.

  4. Jennifer: You’re welcome Jennifer.

    3m: I sort of expected the same before I read this one. But at the end I found that I liked both books with the same level (though in different way). Probably because Hosseini’s style hasn’t changed much.

  5. I love multiple points of view in a novel when it’s done well (for example, Roberto Bolaño’s “The Savage Detectives” practically has a chorus of “narrators,” all totally believable with their own voices), but I hate it when authors just lazily alternate between two characters’ POV in parallel chapters–boring! Your review seems to do a nice job of summing up the pros and cons of the Hosseini book, so I’ll keep that in mind as a potential reading choice as the Orbis Terrarum challenge progresses. Thanks for the review!

  6. I so much want to read this one and have it on my shelf, but there are so many other good novels that I think it will take me some more time before I get to it.

  7. Tea: Thanks, I enjoyed the book too.

    Richard: I’ll keep that Bolano’s title in mind. Before this book, the last one that I read with “lazy” multiple POV was My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and I hated it. (The main idea was okay, but I disliked the way it was written.) Since then I’m a bit wary of multiple POV in book. Anyway, thanks for the compliment :)

    mrdes: It took me a long while too to finally pick it up :P

  8. I didn’t like this one nearly as much as The Kite Runner. I must have missed something because most people think it’s just as good, if not better!

  9. Khaled Hosseini effectively shares the plight of Afghanistan women, painting a beautiful, yet tragically realistic, portrait of the era. His writing is a mirror that reveals the heart of oppressed women, women hoping and longing for a voice. Survival in even the worst of circumstances gives hope in the midst of suffering. It proves good can come from even the most horrific of conditions.

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