I got given this book by my Nana and knew nothing about it. Not a thing. I was tempted to read the blurb but decided not to, and just read. I haven’t read Kite Runner and it was only vaguely familiar in name, so I truly had no idea where this book was going to go. And I’m super glad I gave this book a chance because it was beautiful.Actually saying that it was beautiful feels a little wrong given the subject matter: Afghanistan and the treatment of women. But the writing was that sort of subtle beauty that only a few authors seem to manage. The words just flowed off the page, smooth and velvety. Which again seems a little wrong. But alas, that’s how I felt about it. Just something about Housseni’s style worked for me, it wasn’t overly showy or pretentious, but it was beautiful.
As I said above it deals with the treatment of women in Afghanistan, more specifically of Mariam and Laila. Mariam was an illegitimate child, a harami, so was shunned by her father’s wives. Her father was a wealthy man, but because she was illegitimate, that meant she had to live away in what was little more than a small hut really. Soon Mariam became frustrated that her father did not want to go out in public with her to one of his movies (as he owned cinemas) and decided to trek into town to see him. She waited all night out on the street for him, but he never came out, despite being home. And when she came home, she found that her mother had committed suicide. Eventually she is made to marry an older man who lives far away where the story really begins.
It starts off well enough but things start to diminish as she is forced to wear a burqa outside, and her husband’s temper changes. In part 2 we change to Laila’s perspective and we see a different side to Afghanistan. Here she is well off, and going to go off to university, but as the fighting continues, things change her plans for her, and then it becomes illegal for her to go to school. The two women eventually meet and start out with hostility but slowly warm to one another.
There are a few interesting and unexpected twists and turns along the way, and partially that reflects the unpredictability of Afghanistan itself. So the story was definitely interesting enough to keep me wanting to read, which is something that not all books can attest. And it was a book that frankly isn’t in my usual sort of genre. I tend to read plenty of fantasy and YA and SF with a few classics and others thrown in, but I’m really glad I read this book.
I actually learnt quite a lot about Afghanistan from this book to be honest. Being only young, most of Afghanistan’s history (basically pre-2001, even after that I still was too young to really comprehend anything) I knew very little about. So finding out the complex history was fascinating. And having a sort of ‘on the ground’ view of everything made it a lot more meaningful. And when I say it was complex, it really was, more so than I imagined. And it wasn’t difficult to keep track of what was going on, on the broader scale, which was pleasing.
It is definitely a book I would recommend reading, it was fascinating and surprisingly educational, especially to someone who knew quite little about Afghanistan’s history. It is an uplifting novel, and a relatively easy read. Now I think I shall be giving The Kite Runner a go in the future!