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Book Review

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel based in Afghanistan, by Khaled Hosseini, on which I’ve written a review. Don’t worry about spoilers, I’ve provided a warning prior. Here comes…

Plot Summary

The novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story summing up the life in Afghanistan, teaching readers about the wars and the struggles of commoners and the restrictions on women over a period of 42 years, before the communist war and after the Taliban, a group of terrorists, arrived. It revolves around two completely different girls, Mariam and Laila, who coincidentally meet up and slowly get to know each other through a common husband, Rasheed. In fact, these two women have an age difference of 17 years, and their meeting up brings about many changes in their lives. The story talks about how girls gained their rights and then lost them again, becoming deprived of the right to walk outside without a burqa and without a male relative, and even losing the right to many hospitals, which began serving males only by law, with the very few female hospitals barely able to pass as hospitals. Overall, it talked about how the life of women suddenly went downhill. It also contains many deaths, every single one of them carrying some kind of emotion behind it. It shows how the girls survived without anyone to talk to or share their feelings with, and how loneliness affects a person deeply. It talks about Mariam’s mistakes and loved ones’ deaths and beatings of her husband and Laila’s children and love. Love between Laila and Tariq, and love always has consequences. Life and Death is the premise of this story. This beautiful story.

My Opinion

The story was interesting, definitely, but more than that, it was beautiful. It was emotional. It was the truth. Hosseini’s way of describing the life of the two girls and the changes at each step in their lives was lovely… descriptive and sad yet enjoyable. Showing Mariam and Laila slowly getting to know each other and facing abuse and torment together as one was appreciable too. The change in nature of Rasheed, the husband, from good to bad to worse due to certain problems in his life which could, from the perspective of men’s superiority, hold the females of the household accountable was capturing and built a growing lump in the reader’s throat. The killing off of many characters in the novel built up suspense and pictured the true essence of living in Afghanistan during that period, of peace and war. Through his novel, I feel Khaled Hosseini was able to convey the looming sense of depression in Afghanistan, and successfully manage to create characters that embodied different personalities and emotions. Mariam, for one, clearly depicted confidence, daringness and fearlessness, therefore showing women empowerment. Laila, on the other hand, was more childish and loving, showing adorable little children in adults too, which also showed how she kept herself alive and happy in gloomy times. The two completely different personalities, one dark and one light, getting together in the same household seems impossible, but Hosseini cleared a path and, in an emotional way, succeeded, because of the subjugation of women in Afghanistan. Hosseini teaches readers about Afghan history not through a boring textbook but through this story, which keeps the reader’s attention all throughout. I will not hesitate to place A Thousand Splendid Suns among my favourite books simply because of the way Hosseini conveys the torment and terror of the Afghans through this meaningful, interesting, masterful, unforgettable, heart-breaking story.

A Few Parts I Liked [SPOILER ALERT]

My favourite parts included the times the two different women stood up for each other against the husband, Rasheed, who was an abusive man, ready to deliver beatings to his wives for any little error. For example, when the two ladies had just met and still hated each other, Laila stood up for Mariam against Rasheed, which was a lovable act of kindness, and may not sound like much in this sentence but was a great deal in the style Hosseini wrote it. Another part I loved was the death of Rasheed, when Mariam stood up for Laila. In the scene, Laila was getting beaten to death, quite literally, by Rasheed for meeting another man with an uncovered face, and Mariam stepped in between with a shovel and attacked Rasheed, hitting him twice in the temple and causing his death. Although it may seem wrong, since it is a murder, I particularly liked it because Mariam recognised the consequences of murdering her husband and yet did so just to save the younger girl. Mariam’s death at the end of the novel was another beautiful part, when she was being executed for murdering her husband. She had been fearless all her life, and at the second right before her death she was scared, but she muttered a paragraph from the Koran under her breath and believed that it was destiny. She had taken a life to save a life and her end was beautiful. Right at the end of the novel, Laila returned to Mariam’s home, which was particularly nice because she found a letter from Mariam’s dead father to Mariam, begging for forgiveness. These parts triggered my emotions and put me at peace and conflict simultaneously, and that is a feeling I like.

Conclusion

The novel talks about the changes in the lives of females in Afghanistan before, during, and after the war, over a period of 42 years. My favourite character was definitely Mariam, because of her confident, daring, fierce and revengeful nature, who embodied women empowerment and believed that women should not be suppressed. While many accepted their fate, Mariam did not, and fought for the destiny she wanted and deserved. Through the novel, one can learn a lot about the history of Afghanistan, and not in a boring manner, but in a manner that they would actually want to go ahead and learn more about it. I feel that everyone should try the book out – it’s much more than just a story.

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

Khaled Hosseini
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