Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is a disturbing story, this time from Afghanistan. I have read ‘Kite Runner’ and anyways all the reviews have been pretty good for this book, so when I saw it resting on my friend’s book-shelf, I picked it up. As it is quite obvious, I have been reading quite a lot of books in this genre, and what connects them all together is the fact that they were all about stories of women who went through quite a lot of ordeal. Not very pleasant books to read, as many of my friends have pointed out and loudly wonder, why have I been reading so many of melancholic books. But then, I see it differently. These are stories, many of them real, most of them disturbing, but that happens to life. One needs to deal with it. These days I have grown to love non-fiction quite a lot.

‘A Thousand Splendid suns’ is basically a story about two women, from almost a generation apart, who are thrown together by fate as wives of the same man. Half the book is about the backgrounds of both the women. The first one, Mariam, is an illegitimate child of a wealthy man. She loves her father, until she is married off hastily to a much older man by him. She used to look forward to the time that she used to spend a kid and as a teenager, never believing her mother even a word that she would say against him. But when she sets out to meet him, he does not meet her. And in a quick succession of events her mother commits suicide, she has nowhere to go and nobody wants her, so she is married off to a widower. The man turns out to be idiosyncratic and temperamental. But she learns to deal with him. It does not help that she is not able to bore him a child.

Second woman is Laila, who in a strange turn of events finds herself in Mariam’s home. Her father was particular about Laila’s education, and her upbringing was pretty liberal. But in a freak explosion, her parents are killed, and she survives. She hears of the demise of her boyfriend, Tariq. Finding herself 6 weeks pregnant with Tariq’s child, and knowing fully well, what happened to women with illegitimate child and women in general without anybode to protect, in Taliban, she agrees to marry Rasheed, Mariam’s husband.

This is their story, Mariam’s and Laila’s. I would say, I liked ‘Kite-Runner’ more, but this is not bad either. I found the beginning part, marginally slow, with too many pages dedicated to their growing up and reaching the main story. After a while, you get a little restless about reaching the main part of the story but towards the end, it is quite fast-paced.

I would definitely recommend it, and I think I would give it 7.5 out of 10. Read another review here.


  1. I have this book with me from last one year but yet to read it! I guess the depressing theme stops me from reading it!! May be will read after some months as am staying away from such themes for sometime :)

  2. You know what, I had been thinking of writing that to you. Stay away from all the depressing books. May be this is the time to read inspirational stories, some good autobiographies.

  3. Part of the review is hidden by the shelfari list, so I couldn't get to read fully.
    I've read this bk, and like you I had enjoyed kiterunner more than this one. Though the bk may have dwelled on true facts (or may even hv understated the same), I found the woman's sad plight very forcefully included, to appeal to the readers' sympathy.

  4. @bouncingbubble: sorry for the shelfari thing. I really haven't figured out how to make it right. May be I will just remove it!
    Anyways, I do agree with your comments about the portrayal of plight of women in the book. It is, what should I say, a little too much.
    Well, thanks for dropping by :-)

  5. The reason why I enjoyed this book was because I now have an idea as to how other people look at Islam. I am a 16 year old Muslim girl and I can tell you that the image created in this book is not a true image of Islam. Us Muslim women are empowered and educated and our lives do not revolve around marriage and sex. We are not locked up in our houses and abused, looking out at the world and feeling lonely. Not all Muslim men are violent and they all do not go looking around for girls who are much younger than them just to satisfy their sexual needs. I actually find the way he wrote about those issues quite disturbing. The Muslims also are portrayed as being the type of people who are constantly at war with each other. Khaled Hosseini could have done a better job by clearly stating that the laws that were mentioned were the Afghani laws and not the Islamic laws. I fear that people all over the world and looking at Islam in a different way now. May God forgive him& I hope that he receives some guidance.

  6. @HaseenaParuk: I think many people, especially women, are intrigued about Muslim women and their lives. But at the same time I am equally intrigued by other religions also. To an outsider like me, who probably would not know or understand how Islamic laws work or in fact, why have they been institutionalized, such books are the only way to explore. May be what you are saying has merit because so many people would not have followed Islam had it been so prejudiced. Well, being a Muslim himself, it was expected that the writer had done justice to these aspects, but probably, he wanted to focus on certain facets only. It certainly does not imply that all men or all women are of a certain kind.
    BTW, thanks for dropping by and putting your thoughts across.

  7. Dear HasinaParuk,

    I don't think he mean to portray it that, and he most definitely was only talking about the Talibans. Maybe to me,also a muslim knew that this was not the way islam is and most educated people who would read that book ought to know. It's true that many people confuse the taliban with islam but i think he assumed a knowledgeable reader especially that he comes from that background as well,I don't think he meant to Islam as a fanatical religion. We also can't deny that this is what happens in Pakistan and I totally agree that Islam gives the woman her full right and persists on her education...etc and it's quite a peaceful religion and every law has a special context.

  8. I LOVE THIS BOOK! After reading The Kite Runner you would think you couldn't do any better, Khaled Hosseini has proven that wrong. Khaled Hosseini has a way with playing with human emotions very well with his characters. I cried when Mariam found out the hard truth about her father, I cried when Laila left her daughter at the orphange, I cried because the way women were treated in this book and in real life in Afghanistan. It took me less then a day to read this book, I literally couldn't tear myself away from it. Most books I read are all too predictable, I couldn't guess what was gonna happen next in this book. His characters feel all too real to me and you feel for them. I would suggest this book to anyone looking for a good read, it's one of those books you will be thinking about long after reading. Also this book teaches a lot about Afghanistan, it's culture, and history. Since reading The Kite Runner and this book I'm more aware of what has and is happening there. This book also makes me happy to live the life I happen to live because I know some women will never get that chance.

  9. @Fofa00- Thanks for your comment. You are right that many people confuse Taliban with Islam. In fact, the way Taliban tries to put their agenda across as the preachings of Islam, people like us tend to believe those may be true. We lack an in-depth knowledge about Islam and its teachings. I am sure no religion teaches wrong things.
    @Ceska- The best thing about his books are the complex, multi-layerd characters. I neve re-read any book, but if I have to, I would always like to re-read Hosseini's books, to discover other finer nuances which I might have missed the first time.
    Thank you for dropping by :-)