A Thousand Splendid Suns
Recommended by Fionna
i want to recommend khaled hosseini's follow up (not a sequel) to the kite runner, a thousand splendid suns. i finished it this afternoon and i can't get it out of head. i'm notusually one to tear up in books or films, i can almost always distance myself in fiction, but this book had me in tears on the go train!
if you've read the kite runner, this is similar in nature: two characters born into very different families are tied together through circumstances beyond their control, and the novel examines the way their relationship evolves over a couple of decades. it's set inafghanistan, and the backdrop of terrorism and brutality plays a large part in the characters' fates. unlike the kite runner, however, the two main characters in a thousand splendid suns, laila and mariam, are female and thus their story takes on even darker and crueler twists. it would be easy to simply see them as victims of their circumstances,and in the hands of any other author, theirs would be a maudlin and depressing story, however hosseini colours laila and mariam with so many shades that while you do feel sorry for them, you also marvel at their spirit and their strength and, most of all, their courage.
mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man with three wives, who has been secreted away with her mother (the maid) in a shack on the outskirts of town. her mother is mentally ill and very bitter towards her father (and mariam, too), whom mariam has built up into near-heroic proportions in her mind. when mariam goes off to visit herfather's house against her mother's wishes, it is the catalyst for a tragedy, the consequences of which change mariam's life forever.
laila is the only daughter in a middle-class family. her father adores her, while her mother ignores her, instead doting on her two elder brothers who have gone off to war. laila is secretly in love with tariq, her next-door neighbour. as the war takes its toll, laila findsherself in a desperate situation and makes a drastic decision that will affect herself and mariam for years to come. it is mariam, however, whose own decision ultimately frees one of them and dooms the other.a thousand splendid suns is a story of mothers and daughters, betrayal and sacrifice, oppression and freedom. it is a devastating read, but also beautifully written -- hosseini has a way of describing the simple delights of nature and the everyday, as well as the horrors of war and abuse, that creates a striking and jarring contrast. i cannot recommend it enough!