Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini
Khalid Hosseini’s new novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is his second, following the much-acclaimed first, “Kite Runner”. Having not had the opportunity yet to read his first novel make me perhaps a less biased reader of his second one. It is said that success is usually hard to repeat and that great novels are usually followed by mediocre ones. So, I’ll let readers of both books make that determination.
I should also warn readers who are expecting a lengthy review, that this isn’t going to be one! Rather, it will be skimpy like the themes in the book. So, I’ll start with the niceties first:
Hosseini writes with a rare intensity. The story picks up rapid momentum from the very beginning and shows little signs of slowing down all the way till the end. In a way, the storyline hooks the reader early on and never lets go. As Hosseini develops the few main characters in the story, he constantly moves back and forth between them, keeping the reader focused so as not to lose track of the plot.
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The book is fictional, though it is interlaced with historical events, with the timeline ranging from about 1975 to the American invasion a few years ago.
It is obvious that Hosseini, who left Afghanistan 30 years ago as a child, has the American and, to some extent, the general Western audience in mind based on his portrayal of his native country.
Having not read Kite Runner, I cannot say if he is repeating any of the themes, but in essence A Thousand Splendid Suns might as well have been written by Horowitz. Well, to be fair, it is not that bad. For pure fiction and enjoyment, the book does not disappoint, but the historical interplay or more accurately the supposed historical interplay based on American interpretation could have been picked out of a classic “Muslim stereotypes central”.
I don’t know enough of Afghanistan to say how much of what Hosseini writes in his book reflects reality, but I can say that the themes are so familiarly stereotypical that it leaves you wondering about Hosseini’s true objectives. Here is what I mean (a note on annotations: the asterisks point to what seemed as examples of stereotypes to me. I should also add my spoiler alert here if you intend to read the book… skip the details between the “%%” symbols and you’ll be safe :) ):
%%The main character, Mariam is 15 when the novel begins. She is the illegitimate child of a wealthy Afghani, Jalil, via his house-maid. Jalil is in a polygamous relationship with three wives*. Because Mariam is illegitimate, Jalil builds a little shack for Mariam and her mother in an desolate area. This is where Mariam grows up, separated from the rest of civilized world. Probably the only positive Muslim image in the novel is depicted in this early part of the story, in the form of Mullah Faizullah, an elderly kind-hearted cleric, who visits Mariam regularly for lessons in Quran.
When Mariam tries to visit her father, her mother commits suicide, so she ends up moving to Jalil’s house. Soon his wives arrange Mariam’s marriage to a widower from Kabul, who is basically an old, fat fart (in his forties)*. Mariam of course cannot say no to the marriage* and ends up leaving with this shoemaker from Kabul, Rasheed. Rasheed forces his wife to cover in the burqa* (consider that this section of the story is set in the 80s, well before the Taliban days), while he himself hides porn magazines in his drawers. Of course, Rasheed and Mariam’s intimate life is limited to Rasheed’s enjoyment only*.
When Mariam becomes pregnant, Rasheed only talks about the boy she is going to have*. When Mariam miscarries, Rasheed becomes abusive, both verbally and physically*.
The story then shifts to the other main character in the story, Laila, the beautiful daughter of ethnic Tajiks. Laila is only 14, when her parents are killed by an explosion and having fornicated with her childhood friend, Tariq, she is now pregnant. Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam. But soon Rasheed, now in his 60s wants Laila for his second wife*. And Laila, desiring to “protect her honor” agrees to the marriage. Eventually Laila gives birth to her illegimate daughter, and as expected, Rasheed treats the girl badly simply because she is a girl (though he doesn’t know that she is in fact not his daughter), and not the boy he wanted*.
The story then revolves around the interludes of the two wives, and their eventual friendship as victims of the rough world. When they try to escape, an Afghani man betrays them at the bus station and takes Laila’s hard-saved money*. This makes Rasheed even more abusive. A few years later the Taliban come into town, and all the stereotypes of the Taliban are emphasized, as if Hosseini was given the charter to reinforce them. I don’t doubt that many of the Taliban actions were true, but by not working in any of the redeeming features of the Taliban* (after all, they did bring security at the expense of liberty) highlights a very Western point of view (which is understandable considering that Hosseini himself was never there to know the facts, so he needs to stop pretending that he has the “Afghani interests at heart”). Mariam ends up killing Rasheed in trying to save Laila from being killed by him. Strangely Mariam decides not to run away with Laila, even though Hosseini doesn’t justify why not. Except that he wanted her killed at the hands of Taliban, to leave that bitter feeling against them. So, Mariam is executed by the Taliban, who “cannot” accept her story because of her being a woman*. Thus, Mariam’s woeful existence comes to end. Her whole life is a necklace of tragic events, pieced together one after another. And with her death, the reader is left with an enduring sense of sadness for Mariam, especially in the fact that Hosseini never did give her a break in her fictional life. Hosseini does do a good job in creating connections between readers and characters. As for Laila, she ends up traveling to Pakistan to marry her original love(r), eventually returning back to Kabul to work with an orphanage. %%
Back then to some underlying themes. An example in how Hosseini seems to be going overboard in pandering to his Western readers was in his repeated mention of the Bamyan Buddhist statues. While the characters of the story lead a pitiful existence with one tragic event after another, Hosseini somehow expects us to believe that Laila is remotely paying attention to the statues and bemoaning their destruction! I mean does Hosseini really think most Afghanis cared? The Western world did care because this part of the world seems to value art and ancient structures over human life, but most Afghanis, like ANY other normal people, probably weren’t thinking about the statues. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that most Afghanis supported the destruction of these statues, nor am I justifying their destruction, but rather my point is that the Afghanis had had MORE important things to worry about, like living from one day to the next!
While Hosseini lays out the horrids of the Taliban regime, he fails to fairly put in perspective the situation before and after the Taliban– the worse state of insecurity during the days preceding and proceeding the Taliban. It is one thing to not have a TV to watch during the Taliban regime, yet quite another when you don’t feel safe from being killed or raped in the streets.
Hosseini’s pandering to the Western audience and his reinforcement of many stereotypes about Muslims betrays the brave Afghani people, many of whom I reckon are everyday “normal” human beings. He also talks about the longing of Laila’s father to perhaps come to America. There is nothing in the story that refers to the many civilians killed in American bombings. So, where is the balance? Also, the betrayal of Mariam and Laila by a “trustworthy-looking” Afghani for money does not represent the nature of Afghanis who will give up their lives for loyalty and honesty. I don’t doubt that many Rasheeds and Jalils existed and still exist in Afghanistan… but there are an equivalent number of Joes and Mikes in the Western societies who beat up their wives and/or have mistresses. However, when you are as famous as Hosseini, then it becomes ever so important to portray a balance, so that people who have never read anything else about Muslims don’t come off saying, “well Hosseini is a Muslim and he said so and so about other Muslims… so this must be the way typical Muslim society works.”
If I have read too much into the story, feel free to scold me. If Kite Runner was very different, do let me know.
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October 29, 2007 at 8:41 AM
I’ll add that from a purely reader’s point of view, I wish Hosseini had given Mariam a break in the end… making the book too tragic, with one outrage over another, made it seem somewhat “forced”.
October 9, 2010 at 11:54 AM
ok whoever you are you have no idea about Afghnaistan like you said. so don’t say that what Hosseine wrote in his books aren’t realistic. I was born and had lived in Afghanistan for a very long time during the war. and almost everything that Khaled Hosseine said IS realisctic. and also, when u said afghans don’t care about art or whatever you think, is not true, and the stuff about the statues of Bamyon is also true and anyother thing he talked about. and if you have any questions than you are more than welcome to ask me, but don’t just asume, and just because someone is not born or raised in their home country that doesn’t mean what they say about their country is not real!!!
September 29, 2016 at 12:39 AM
I so totally agree with you, my relatives are from pakistan and they have friends who witnessed the war and what ever hossieni zaid about Afghanistan is true. And if you could do us all a favour, just think before you God dann talk!
November 5, 2010 at 7:56 PM
well ur wrong because u have no idea about the life of people in afghanistan, nd like i said mr. i am from afghanistan nd i had gone thorough most of the same thing nd that story is very realistic!!!
November 22, 2014 at 3:37 AM
Thanks Amad..your review was really helpful..I am a research scholar working on Khalid Hosseini..it helps me in putting forth diverse viewpoints given by reviewers…if you see my reply in time, plz respond. I may need to interact with you more.
December 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM
You are one person before you read this book. And you are a fully changed person AFTER you complete the book. Having a poignant plot, this book will make you appreciate every little thing, & will make you realise just how fortunate you are. The pain, the suffering and the sacrifices described in this book truly provide a great insight into the depths of courage and love. Unlike THE KITE RUNNER, in this book, you will be unable to figure out the aptness of the title, until you reach the very last page of the book; and when the reason as to why the book is named A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns finally hits you, you are left….as was in my case,speechless, by the sheer impact made by this touching story. Go ahead…read this…and your mind, thinking and most importantly your outlook will never be the same again!
April 14, 2015 at 12:01 PM
I think if you read the kite runner you would have understood that he really does not have a westernized point of view or Is trying to please a western audience. The book peels off all the layers of war from the times of soviets to Taliban till the bare bone of war is exposed: it is that there is tragedy in war always but heroes are created. Mariam did not die unhappy she died an appreciated hero, maybe not in a way that we understand but in a way she understood; although many what are believed to be stereotypes of Muslims (which they are not, they are a minority that is focused on to turn them into the mainstream representation of Muslims) are mentioned and reinforced in the book, he is not lying it is fact what he has mentioned and we cannot ignore how he portrays Marium and Laila both practically opposites in every way but they are bound together by country of origin and religion. He creates a strong and defiant Laila and an even stronger Marium. I think if he was to appeal to a wider audience and actually try to get the daily basis tragedy of Afghanistan out to the world Hosseini had to look through the eyes of the reader and correct the flaws they saw and unfortunately was the only truth these people knew. He showed the world that although people like rashid and Jalal exist, people like Marium and Laila exist too and Muslim women are not weaklings who submit to abusive men that do not in any way represent a Muslim man they simply represent an abusive man. Overall the book was one of the best I’ve read and clearly identifies what Taliban was doing as not being jihad and not being a representation of the correct way to rule a country under Islam which I would pity whoever doesn’t agree with.
October 29, 2007 at 8:57 AM
I started reading Kite Runner and I stopped at one part because it was too much for me. I haven’t completed it up to this day. I don’t plan on doing it.
After reading your review, I don’t plan on reading any of his books.
October 19, 2010 at 6:34 PM
Read his books. They are amazing. Period. The end. The person who wrote this review is completely off base. Don’t Listen To Them!
October 29, 2007 at 12:35 PM
The Kite Runner really was very harsh, and depressing also… yet the intensity of his writing is actually quite beautiful (I think).
Hmmmm, it seems like the kid in The Kite Runner ended up better off than Mariam!
October 29, 2007 at 3:19 PM
I’ve read ‘The kite runner’; I liked his style of writing, being pakhtun I can relate to some of the traits of the characters in the book.
Though I don’t agree with ALOT of the content in the book, it was very well written and he does have a talent for writing
I haven’t decided whether I’ll read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” if it’s similar to the kite runner in content I will probably refrain from it
October 29, 2007 at 4:45 PM
I agree. I read “Kite Runner” and I have the feeling the author has an agenda in feeding the stereotypes of the Taliban. At first, it almost fools you into thinking it’s based on a true story but as the events get more and more improbable, you realize that is fictional and then you don’t know how much to believe about some events that seem historical. For instance, there’s a scene where a couple is stoned to death in a stadium by the Tabliban. It’s stories like this that were used by the US government to gain public support for the invasion of Afghanistan. In the story, the antagonist ends up being a psychopathic, nazi, rapist– turned Taliban leader and executioner. I find this a bit contrived.
October 29, 2007 at 4:54 PM
Wow… that’s a dude… so, let’s see how the stereotypes add up:
-nazi i.e. “fascist”…
-rapist i.e. hypocrite / woman-hater
-stoning to death… while forgetting how many were killed in the streets (like many, many times more)
I mean if the guy wants to propagandize against the Taliban, that’s one thing… he is free to do what he wants. But when you are writing a story, how about making it at least REALISTIC?? I mean even many non-Muslims, non-Afghanis are fairer in their representation than this fictional character who packs all the world’s evil into one poor Talib!
October 29, 2007 at 6:38 PM
I started trying to read the first book, but its anti-Taliban agenda was just a little to obvious and I truly feel such propaganda only seeks to prop up the American occupation of Afghanistan and subsequent foreign policy. If you want a more balanced view of the Taliban, I would suggest [URL=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/3673730.stm”]Yvonne Ridley[/URL], who was actually imprisoned by them for a short period of time. One can furthermore consult with the statements of our trusted scholars, such as [URL=”http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/contemporary/0027.htm”]Shaykh ‘Abdullâh al-Ghunaymân[/URL], [URL=”http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/contemporary/0026.htm”]Shaykh ‘Abdur-Rahmân al-Barrâk[/URL], and [URL=”http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/contemporary/0016.htm”]Shaykh ibn Jibrîn[/URL] to get an Islamic view on the Taliban.
March 22, 2010 at 2:44 AM
Salam Alikum brother Abu Omar,
I went thru some of the links you provided. The people who try to talk or discuss about the talibans always ends up in 2 ends of the extreme. The sheikhs overpraise them and the western media over condemn them, being an Afghani myself and having lived thru all the wars I can tell you that both views are flawed and incorrect. The talibans were no saints nor evils they were just normal people who had some positive points and some negative points. Their govt was a mixture of islam and culture.
October 29, 2007 at 10:28 PM
Wow- That’s a detailed analysis. I haven’t read the Kite Runner either, but I read A Thousand Splendid Suns this summer.
I agree with Daoud- I was quite disappointed not knowing how much is fact and fiction in his book.
However, I think I understand why Mariam decided to stay back, and her reason to do so was justified in the book (about it being too suspicious). Perhaps the author wasn’t able to explain that part well- I struggled with that thought as well: At least now she has her freedom, and she can live her life. But at the same time, for a person who has had only sorrow in her life, Laila had brought enough happiness that she had seen it all/enough.
Maybe a guy won’t understand that :)
June 14, 2015 at 7:02 PM
whether or not her not staying behind would be suspicious, we have to remember that realistically, after people have been through emotional and physical turmoil, we may not always do the most logical thing, sometimes being the hero is what we feel we have to do in the end. Mariam may not have HAD to stay behind, but it was her choice. Regardless of whether it was necessary or not, it was seen as right in her eyes. It was what she felt was necessary, and maybe, ideally, she should have gone with them, but bravery and courage, and ultimate sacrifice isn’t always logically necessary, but needed to remind us to be kind and good and brave people. Humanity is sad and depressing like that, but also kind of beautiful.
October 30, 2007 at 1:37 AM
The word illegitimate is not correct.The word maid servant should have been used which is legitimate as mentioned in Quran still.The story as usual would have been constructed to malign muslims and the whole history of muslims and afghanis.First they were used as mujahid,then thrown away,labelled as terrorist and now they r used in Pakstan as the target for destroying the whole ummah.The muslim should realize whether they r doing the duty of foreigners by being mixed in their culture as obama hussein is being used or they have beeen transformed into different genetic materials which r not muslim genes but added with stranger genes!
November 1, 2009 at 5:03 AM
hahaha….do you realize that you sound like a retarded, very retarded, freak???
September 15, 2014 at 10:20 PM
what are examples of illegitamacy in this book
i know mariam but what else about her except how she was born
October 30, 2007 at 1:50 AM
The Kite Runner reeked of Shia propaganda to me.
October 30, 2007 at 8:21 AM
Humairah, it was supposed to be a “skimpy” analysis, not detailed. I guess I failed in that original objective :) I understand that Hosseini tried to explain why Mariam stayed back…she was trying to save Laila and Tariq from getting caught up in Rasheed’s murder, possibly leading Laila’s children to become orphans. But this scenario assumes that the state of law and order was so good that Rasheed’s death would be discovered quickly and there wouldn’t be any time to escape. Instead I imagine that the chaotic times of that period would have accommodated Mariam’s escape with Laila. That’s why I still believe it was forced in order to have the Taliban perform the execution rights and leave the reader with that severe anti-Taliban repulsion.
Jalees, I am not sure what you are talking about in terms of “illegitimate”… Mariam’s mother was a maid, not a “possession of the right hand”. The relationship was clearly illicit and illegitimate.
AbdulRahman… I believe Hosseini is Shia. It it is interesting that you mentioned the “shia effect”. For example, Hosseini chose Rasheed, a Pashtun, presumably a Sunni, to be the main victimizer. And though he did mention some of the crimes of Shah Masood, he was more beneficent in his treatment of the “Northern” Shia alliance.
I don’t disagree that there may be some bias, but that would also be natural considering that a Shia would be expected to be more favorable about Shia characters, while a Sunni would be more favorable about Sunni characters. Overall, the book did not come across as significant Shia propaganda, like for instance, he did not rave about Iran or about Shia groups. And that the book’s characters’ life wasn’t MUCH better before the Taliban.
September 28, 2014 at 5:13 PM
But with so many lose bomb things going off every where, they couldn’t they have just staged a family death and all got to live?
October 30, 2007 at 3:16 PM
Spot on with the review! I read the book, a month or so after it came out. I agree, i mean i liked the story but I felt disapointed at his portrayl of Islam. He is a “best-selling” author, so it’s worrying too, seeing as many “non-muslim folk” will read this and get this really weird image of Islam, and from a Muslim!
SubhanAllah, yes it was so sad, I mean how many things could possibly happen to one person! Maryam was living a forever-depressed[ing] life, with little if any good moments. And Laila too, her life was quite depressing. I really ended up hating Rasheed at the end, but i wonder is Rasheed supposed to represent the “average” Muslim guy, or is Tariq? I’m thinking the former in Hosseni’s case!
So some weird things I noticed:
-love of Sufi. He has quotes from Sufi poems all throughout the book, from Rumi and his likes.. I think he mentioned a shrine or something of a sufi poet once (?!).
-Weird islamic “pratices”-like the dua that Tariq and Laila’s sons do at night, lol I think they count bismillah for each of their knuckles (?!where is this from originally, or is it made up?) And some other things too that I wasn’t quite sure where they were [originally] derived from, not the Quran & Sunna methinks.
-Too much mention and emphasis on the idol worshipper’s statue, I mean you would think they blew up the Ka’ba or something! Get Over It.
-Distortion of Islam by Western Ideas and Concepts-Like Laila marrying Tariq like two seconds after Rasheed died (lol what happened to mourning period?!). Of course there were other things like the zina itself that was made to seem “normal” “natural”
“beautiful” even. Hmm. Not to mention how once Laila or Maryam, not quite sure which, “look up to” the Afghani women who wear lipstick and short skirts! Why would they look up to them?! They [Aghani women] are made to seem liberated,”free” with their revealing clothes and immodesty.
-Too much hate directed toward Islam and Muslims whether directly or indirectly.
-When the Taliban come, I think he exaggerates very much, like in the hospital part. Surely the situation was a bit better than that?! Also how Rasheed says that the Taliban are better for him, all he has to do is “grow a beard and pray at the Masjid five times a day”. And the beginning where the Taliban are speaking to the people, and he adds “or you will be whipped” (he almost made it seem funny?). I think that and other things were like a criticism of Shariah punishment, maybe to make it seem barbaric…
-When Americans came, suddenly everything was better and the future brighter. He stops short, he doesn’t mention that the Americans literally destroyed the country and it’s people. but i guess Laila and her family were too busy at the orphanage to notice!
I liked the Qur’an teacher though. I liked how he quoted Qur’an for Maryam when she was feeling down, and how she rememberd it later on, also how she said she found comfort in her prayers, that she never left them…..
He is a good writer, I will give him that. I liked the book, the way in which he wrote it. But as a Muslim, I’m concerned, worried, scared about his [false] portrayl and generalizations of [other] Muslims and Islam.
He should insha’Allah increase his knowledge [Islamically], take a trip down to Afghanistan (stay there for many years), then write another book.
I’m hearing weird things about the Kite Runner, so I won’t even go near that one (or the movie that is coming out!)
October 30, 2007 at 4:47 PM
It’s books/ authors like this who highlight the need for more Muslim novelists – and not just more Muslim novelists, but more Muslim novelists who are getting published and publicized.
October 30, 2007 at 10:28 PM
jazakallah khayran bro amad for the review!
November 2, 2007 at 10:19 AM
I read the Kite Runner about a year (or more) ago. I was sooo disappointed. “brideboys”? He made the Taliban into pedophiles who loved little boys, ‘authobillah. And anyone who has seen In the Footsteps of Bin Laden on CNN has been shown that the Taliban (or was it al-qa’eda) does not recruit anyone who does not have good akhlaaq and a number of other requirements. And this is from a Western source, so how can some guy who claims to be a Muslim say this much falsehood?
November 12, 2007 at 11:21 PM
im reading the book now for my english class and i wished i didnt read it! but now its too late. i agree with wht the person above me says “He made the Taliban into pedophiles who loved little boys” this part in the book is soo retarded. i mean im so disappointed that his half his info is allll untrueeee. im afghan and like i feel as if non muslims r reading this theyr gonna get the wrong impression of the taliban and islam. as if non muslims dont have the wrong impression of islam and taliban. lol i mean i agree that most taliban were bad but they r good ones out there!!! i hated when some afghans gossip and lie cuz thats how it all started!!! i dont trust this khalid hossieni guy one bit. he has a hidden agenda 4 sure. i mean lets b serious here rarely do u c in this anti-islam world books written by “muslim” authors as being “national bestseller” this must b a jokeee! i mean the so called “muslim” irshad manji’s book is a national bestseller. get the connectionnnSS???
November 18, 2007 at 9:02 PM
as a non-muslim I think we appreciate that these are fictional characters and sure they are based on stereotypes…makes for good fiction. I enjoyed a glimpse into this era before the American invasion…it shed some light on what life was like before the American invasion when Afganistan, when many Americans first became aware of the country…
November 18, 2007 at 11:45 PM
Thanks hrowell for visiting MM. I cannot disagree that the book was good fiction, and that it did pack in emotions and intensity.
Since we agree that this is fiction, I do suggest that the book’s description of “real life” is considerably skewed and only empowers those who used the distortions to exploit the situation. I cannot recommend a better historical reference because I don’t know of one… perhaps other readers have some other more accurate/objective book to recommend.
November 30, 2007 at 1:52 PM
Appreciated hearing from so many other middle easterners’ perspectives that the story was whitewashed with Americanism. How? Where in the story? So far you have not convinced me. Miriam and Liala both felt the comfort of the burqa. Miriam’s death at the hands of the Taliban provided her with the one worthy contribution she could make in her life. Hosseini’s insights provide a possible rationale for womens’ ability to accept what outsiders consider intolerable. Perhaps you are saying there could have been many more examples of why women tolerate injustice and the benefits they get from them over centuries. I would be interested in hearing from Afgan women about how they deal with it positively. And, apparently, they do.
November 30, 2007 at 8:26 PM
Case In Point: The Non-Muslim Audience has read it and devoured it.
How do you make this into a da’wah opportunity? What things can you draw upon in the story and distinguish it from the light of Islaam?
Basically, how would you connect with one who has read the story and give da’wah in this regard?
December 14, 2007 at 11:44 PM
I have read The Kite Runner and A Thousand….As an Afghan I am proud of Hossieni. I would like to congratulate him on his great work!
I can not wait to go and watch the movie. I am sure he is up for an Oscar.
Well done Hossieni.
December 14, 2007 at 11:56 PM
Please every one calm down!!! Hossieni’s book is fiction. I am sure every one knows the difference between fiction and reality. I read alot, when some one told me about The Kite Runner at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I am gald I did. It was good and I enjoyed reading it. My favourite is A thousand splendid suns….Again it is FICTION. I agree with Ahamd that he has done a great job describing the life of all Afghans before the Russian’s invasion. As Afghans like Yasaman we should ALL Congratulate him for his great work of words and fiction!!!
December 15, 2007 at 12:33 AM
Yasaman and Dina… same IP address, same sentiments… sock-puppet anyone?
December 15, 2007 at 12:40 AM
Amad, perhaps it was two different family members?
December 15, 2007 at 1:05 AM
Perhaps, perhaps not… but never a good habit to cheer-lead, even if different person from the same household… just a general blog etiquette
December 19, 2007 at 3:12 PM
The truth is Mr Khalid Khosseini is not a Shia. He is a Sunni Muslim who happens to have no hate for other Muslims. Muslims have their faults and we must be honest and admit our sins and shortcomings. This is a shame that many of you still insinuate that is against Islam. If you have a bad son you will be harsh to him so he may be good. What Hussaini did is the right thing.
December 19, 2007 at 11:15 PM
Ali, evidence for Hosseini’s sunnism?
Being honest about our mistakes and faults is one thing… exaggerating them WHILE ignoring and glossing over the mistakes of the West is NOT the “right thing” or the right way to correct “your bad son”
The pandering by Hosseini to the audiences of his adopted country (America) in the novel was SO obvious that its like taking the side of the bully who’s been making your bad son even worse.
December 22, 2007 at 7:25 AM
Amad it doesn’t matter if I know Dina or not what matters is the book. I read the book like any other fiction book. I was glad and proud that this writer happens to be an Afghan. You and few other seems to care alot about Khaled being Shai or Sunny. We are all Muslims and Afghans why can’t we just live a happy life being and calling ourselves AFGHANS???????what is wrong in being Shai or Sunny???The reason our people are still suffering is DISCRIMINATION, of being Pushtun , Azara, Tajik or Uzbek!!!!I used to think all these stuff about Pushtuns and Azaras were finished long time ago but apperantly I was wrong.Certain people still care about these things and that is so childish.
December 22, 2007 at 6:19 PM
“Care a lot about KHaled being shia”
You know I didn’t even mention the shia issue (unless I am missing something) in my post. It was brought up later, and even then I made some relatively neutral comment. In fact, if your read my 2-cents on shia, here is what I said:
So, my review was not about shia or sunni… it would have been the same if Hosseini was either.
December 27, 2007 at 4:03 AM
Asalm alaikum warahmatulahi wabarakatuh
I have not read the second novel but, I have managed to read the Kite runner at last. My thoughts of the kite runner will be very mixed up and all over the place.
To begin with .The story line was interesting and sort of had a nice end, I think Asian writers generally write very good books even though ironically most of which I have read were anti Islamic.
Politically, he over exaggerated Taliban’s power like he really took it too far beyond facts and all boundaries.
Sometimes the story is contradicting, like Amir says he’s a pashtun then he speaks in farsi throughout the entire novel farsi (eh)
Farsi people had pashtuns , and pashtuns hate hazaras. Hazaras are farsiwan as well. Now I let you do the maths
At times he makes things look soo good , he described Afghanistan as though its so peaceful and then the Russians come then the Taliban’s destroy it all.
At times I wish he could have talked about Afghanistan poverty the joys and sorrows of its people and so on and tackle those things like afghani humour and hospitality food and women. Afghanistan past , ancestry and so on. He made a very unusual story up and made it sound casual. Most people don’t even know who hazaras and pashtuns are why even talk about it I don’t see a point. If u want to educate masses about Afghanistan then do it differently. Its like even afghans themselves don’t care bout the conflict in Afghanistan.. Weird really if you think about it. let me explain to you how it ,,its England representing a book about England to lets say Afghanistan and instead of tackling the above things the writer talks about a deep political conflict that happened between Ireland and Scotland during some time. In the …xyz .. Do you think Afghanistan cares LOL.
And then he makes the pashtun the master of a Hazara This is like Nazis making a book and in which a jew is the master of the nazi.
(ookay maybe that’s a really bad example)
And just by chance this Hazara is also very religious Muslim and the pashtun is not and his father is like a modernist like that’s something casual that happens.
For a fact and everybody knows this pashtuns tend to be more ‘religious’ then farsiwan because theyr sort of more into their nang namoos (honour respect) business. It is very unlikely that some pashtun is a liberal. He’s story is a bit imaginary.
And he talks about kites ..as though Afghanistan is nothing but in love with kites..
I like when people talk about things but not make them look as though they are really important to a country. PEOPLE ARE DYING IN AFGHANISTAN AND HE’S
MENTIONING KITES maybe he tries to give it a rest about the oppression and writes something happy.. allahu alam.
I asked someone who lived in Afghanistan for over 20 yrs and explained to them the kite runner he just told me “if anybody wants to know about Afghanistan’s history then they can pick up an authentic history book and whoever likes to hear lies then let them drown in those lies”. He wasn’t referring to the book altogether since the book has some truth but made a general statement.
The fact will stay that, nobody will ever try to draw a clear picture and the truth about Afghanistan except those who lived on its soil for years.
Some facts were true and quite upsetting. Like the religious situation of Afghanistan and the culture baggage. Although he describes the culture baggage as a positive thing about Afghanistan again this showing his lack of knowledge of the deen.
At times the writer makes it look like; Islam is just praying namaz and reading Koran perhaps this is how it is. That’s all islam has become to the people of Afghanistan.
The dady or BABA is a pashtun Sunni atheist (an oxymoron u guessed it right) astaghfirullah and a liberal. Now even though he does not believe in Allah religion and hates religion he sends his son to read Koran. And again the write portrays him in the eyes of Amir as someone great. Its like saying to Muslims “hey look this guy is no not into ur religion but look what a great person he was, not just some retarded molvi but he practically helped Afghanistan’s poverty by building an orphanage. And then he drinks as well. No offence but this is like a really odd mixture. Why does he call him baba if he’s pashtun hed say “plara” (father) Agha , also the continues use of Jan shows the people in it are farsiwan. Why I am mentioning that Amir is not a pashtun but a farsiwan is because Farsi people tend to hate pashtun. Also its funny how the pashtun girl he gets married to has a farsiwan name and says the f word, now that’s kinda unsual. And his baba says he has sooo much gheera (ghayrat) reffering to amir’s father in law but the daughter doesn’t wear a hijab. I am not trying say what islam says but here in the context for afghanis it would make no sense.
Although he’s supposed be like talking about Afghanistan it makes it look like America is much better and the rest of the novel is about America.
– Then he talks about Birthday parties ok maybe farsiwan do birthday parties but pashttoons don’t but nobody in Afghanistan does it who could afford it. the fact is he makes it sound casual when in reality its not even wide spread custom ( to be honest it’s the first time in my life I heard his)
– Oh what else when he mentions the sacrificing of the Goat was it , its like he couldn’t find anything more sad to say because Islam has given animals so many rights then to describe how sad the situation was. Ah just read up that part and you will understand.
Sometimes I think subhanAllah how easy it is to brain wash people.
Especially if you don’t know better.
Maybe this guy should mention that Hazara are the minority and yet they have 11 seats in parliament
Yes to an extend I do believe pashtun can be quite racist when it comes to hazaras like making fun of their chinky eyes. Pashtuns and their pride ..Allah protect us.
You know which bit made really ROFL the bit were assef tries to explain how got into the Taliban if you read it you will know what I mean. I had feelin ASSEF wud be a bad guy.
Khaled hossein knows how to attract his audience
The non muslims will not question him
The muslims who read it esp aghans who live in these countries are mostly not practising and so hate the Taliban as well.
Some practising Farsiwan hate Taliban so he’s got them on his side as well.
And as for the practising Muslims who look at the Taliban from a balanced view and reject his ideas then they are the minority anyway… And even if they are the majority they are quiet.
And then again he has an excuse “it’s just a fiction novel”.
Every time someone writes a book about Afghanistan they cant do anything but write pages against Taliban’s because that will be easy published as well as not questioned and the likelihood the person is a farsiwan is very high , again this is like giving the Nazis a task to praise Jews in a book how that would sound .
He doesn’t even mention American oppression or the like of it.
And if khaled hosseini is a farsiwan Shia the everything is self explanatory.
Lastly this may sound like I am trying to write an anti hosseini thing really I am not. I don’t intend to hurt anyone if anything I have written is wrong inshallah please do correct me . BarakAllahufeekum
I really do believe Husseini has some real quality writing and engages the reader and excuse him for his mistakes as I believe they not purposely done but due lack of knowledge but he should also remember that this is the same problem with the ‘ulama’ of Afghanistan and excuse them, may Allah guide him and forgive him and guide the people of Afghanistan Ameen
May Allah forgiving me for uttering anything displeasing to him
Me's friend hehehe
December 30, 2007 at 8:11 AM
Wow Meeeeeeee that was very interesting. I am glad some one did a very good job without being rude or offensive.I totally agree with you there is more than Pushtun and Hazara in our beloved Afghanistan. Yes Khaled does need to research more before his next novel. I have read both his novels I did enjoy reading A thousand………..more. I liked the second part about Laila, I guess in away we all (mostly girls) had crashes and first loves etc etc. I could relate to few bits and pieces of the book. But hey the book is Fiction and in every part of the world teenage girls and boys have got first loves and stuff…………..wink wink
So what was my point???lol I forgot.
Anyways A Thousand splendid suns is a enjoyable book.
People who would like to read it go through Amad’ review (Fab review bro) and HAVE FUN reading it!!!!!!
December 30, 2007 at 12:08 PM
I thought, as a guy, since I never read the book to give the movie a try with my wife. I’m Afghan myself and felt I should give my respects to another brother and watch his work. Like I said, I hadn’t read the book and my wife thought it was the biggest thing to happen to mother earth since mother earth. I thought I should check it out. I’m a pretty solid Afghan male who last showed any emotions towards anything was never! Oh, and I’m pushtun by the way. That damned movie almost made me cry a few times and I put myself in control mode throughout to prevent any such shameful act to happen to me in a public place life that. So I take it its fiction and as far as I understand the word, it would mean that its not based on fact. Now when you add that together, you get what you get. You might not agree with some things and with others but what are you going to do. I mean, if you think about it, alot of these things do happen all over the planet. Muslims rape, murder etc. So do others from other faiths. Its not the religion, its the ones that practice, who are not perfect. We need to look at the truth of the matter. And sometimes, truth can be painful. I mean, if people especially from the west show interest, its because they connect with something in it…the human side. After all we are all human, are we not? Or, is it that we are “muslims” and they are whatever. No, I personally don’t agree.
But I did feel that the movie was kind of boring at times and that they could have done a better job digging alittle deeper into things and showing alittle more about the history and culture of the country. But I guess not bad for a first of its kind. Has anyone seen “The Beast”? Its about afghanistan and some russian soldiers lost in the country only to be found by the mujahideen and all that involves…its a ok movie but interesting..I wish someone makes a realistic movie about the russian/afghan war. Like a “saving private ryan” kind…realistic! personally I don’t care for fiction. Why should I waste my time reading someone elses imaginings. Give me the real stuff! or nothing at all…thats probably why I havent up to this day read the kite runner.
anyway, peace out people.
January 17, 2008 at 9:03 PM
Kite Runner banned in Afghanistan
Actor Ahmad Khan left Kabul in December.
The Kite Runner has been banned from cinemas and DVD shops in Afghanistan because it could incite violence.
Any shops found selling the film would be closed, the country’s culture minister said.
The Kite Runner is based on the 2003 best-selling novel by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini.
Its four child stars were flown out of Afghanistan last month amid worries for their safety over a homosexual rape scene in the film.
The Kite Runner explores Afghan society over three decades, from before the Soviet invasion through the rise of the Taliban.
In the story, the main character witnesses the rape of his ethnic Hazara friend by an ethnic Pashtun. The two groups fought bitterly during the country’s 1990s civil war.
“It showed the ethnic groups of Afghanistan in a bad light,” deputy culture minister Din Mohammad Rashed Mubarez said.
“We respect freedom of speech, we support freedom of speech, but unfortunately we have difficulties in Afghan society, and if this film is shown in the cinemas, it is humiliating for one of our ethnic groups.”
Officials also fear that pirated DVDs of the film will reach Kabul and some residents could react violently to the controversial scenes.
Pirated DVDs are a booming business in Afghanistan, with new releases frequently available the same week movies are released in the United States
Taken from BBC
January 17, 2008 at 11:17 PM
I am not a Muslim. I am a second generation American of Italian, Venezuelan, and Hungarian descent. I found your website by looking for more information on Khalid Hosseni. I thought you would like a non-Muslim point of view. I saw the Kite Runner I loved it . Mind you I don’t have an extreme fondness for the Taliban. I just finished readind A Thousand Splendid Suns. I loved that to. Unfortunately, i knew Rasheed, Mariam and Lailia. You don’t have to be Muslim to know someone like Rasheed or be Afghan. As a an American i knew that watching the movie and reading the book. But I fell in love with Afghanistan and it’s people. i learned so much about it’s people since 9-11. What good and kind people battered by wars. i feel as if i know something about the casualities of civilians. they seem real to me like someone i may have known and not just name of a place very far away from here. what i’ve seen in the media and read in this book seemed very different to me. i realize i don’t have a great amount of knowledge what little i took away left me wanting to know more. as a high school student i remember learning about the soviet invasion. (and not being too happy about it) i remember having air raid drills in history class in case they started dropping bombs on us. i didn’t have a point of view on Afghanistan. But the book gave a name and face for a country for me. It made me understand what has been happening to the afghan people for the last twenty years and how much they’ve lost. i hope i get to see it someday when peace finally comes. i hope haven’t intruded or offended anyone but i was so taken by your comments and your worries about how you as a people are perceived i wanted to let you know how i was touched. i apologize if i did offend.
January 18, 2008 at 2:15 AM
kikib, thank you for your comments. No offense taken of course. Your perspective is another important window into the situation.
January 18, 2008 at 7:51 PM
I thought the Kiterunner was a fantastic book – of course, no one’s portrayal of a particular culture or even country is going to agree exactly with everyone else’s, but aside from that, I didn’t think Hosseini’s portrayal of Islam was particularly negative. If anything, it seemed to be more critical of the culture, and of the Taliban’s extreme version of Islam, than anything else. The book was written from his own experience, and it would just seem false if he made every Muslim character a shining beacon of perfect goodness. People and places have flaws, if they’re pointed out, just assess if it’s true then try and improve!
In any case, the book focussed more on Amir’s personal story of betrayal, guilt and redemption, etc, than on Afghanistan or Islam. It was pretty obviously fictional, what with having wild coincidences and everything working out at the end.
That said, I really disliked A Thousand Splendid Suns. I didnit really connect with any of the characters (Laila seemed like an idiot). Hosseini said in an interview that he had a lot of criticism for not mentioning any main female characters in his first book, so he tried to rectify that with the second. Maybe because he wrote it for that reason, rather than out of passion like for the first book, they seemed less developed?
Still, he kept a distinction between Islam and Taliban-ism (?) – Mullah Faizullah was one of the only likeable characters, and he was a heavy duty Muslim.
The stereotypes you mentioned are more related to the culture rather than Islam – marrying girls off to older guys, preferring boys, pervy men, abusive men… these could all be sterotyped figures in stories relating to Sikhs or Hindus in India for example.
January 24, 2008 at 2:35 AM
Salam, I still can’t remember how I ended up reading your blog, but I am glad I did.
I am in fact working on a book review for a thousand splendid suns for a contest :$ AND, you are the only person who has a different opinion that EVERYONE else. It was so sad to find that everyone was drumming up and buying everything in the book as if it were the bible. Well, just wanted to say good job!
April 2, 2008 at 11:37 AM
I am a Taiwanese woman, living in Germany for 10 years already. I have read both books (The Kite Runner + A thousand splendid suns). I did not feel that the books provide a biased view, though at the beginning it looks like. The fact is that I know a lot of Muslim in my office and also see a lot of them in public places, and so far I think they are just like us – the non-Muslim. There are good people and bad people in this world. There is Rasheed in Muslim world and also Rasheed in non-Muslim world.
The most important thing is how the readers keep themselves un-biased. The cause is often not the book itself, not the readers who pick up the parts which they “want” to believe to believe.
What I must say is if you – Muslim – see room for improvement in the Muslim world, then pick up the issues and help on them. Honestly, as a woman, it really hurts me to know that some Muslim women have to be so strong to carry these loads on them. I know what happened in Afghanistan is tough for everyone, but somehow I feel it is even tougher for the women.
April 2, 2008 at 6:29 PM
“While Hosseini lays out the horrids of the Taliban regime, he fails to fairly put in perspective the situation before and after the Taliban -”
“even many non-Muslims, non-Afghanis are fairer in their representation than this fictional character”
It is indeed the approach of much of the mainstream Western media today to seek “balance” and “fairness”; that does not make it true. It would be like Copernicus trying to prove the Earth goes round the sun being forced to accept that the argument that the sun goes round the Earth is equally valid.
Justice isn’t always fair. Countries dominated by tyranny, especially if dominated by Russians who make it a habit to burn their secret records, have little documentary evidence available to characterize themselves and must substitute literature for history. Hosseini is arguing that his interpretation is the valid one. If you have enough knowledge to gainsay him, present your evidence, or at least quote a witness to events (not that eyewitnesses are particularly reliable, either.)
April 3, 2008 at 6:13 PM
I don’t think that most people actually realize how powerful a tool Literature, Fiction etc… can be in strengthening the concept of the “Other”, and stereotyping, and most of all as a tool of propaganda. Literature has the advantage of the fact that it is “Literature”, it is not as obvious as let’s say a political analysis. But it is a very potent tool of reinforcing stereotypes.
I think it is tantamount to complete ignorance and idiocy to just overlook certain undertones in works of fiction just because they happen to be fiction. Plus such an arguement is flawed logically. If this is the case, then one could say, for instance, “…hey I really enjoyed reading Kama Sutra…” and when someone happens to remind that person that there’s material in there which is sexually explicit and probably haram to reas, and the person simply brushes off the notion because it is ‘fiction’. I know this sounds like an extreme example but I hope it gets the point accross.
The following is the best review I’ve ever seen on “The Kite Runner”. It is by a non-muslim, and it is academic in nature. Masha Allah he does a way better job than most ‘muslim’ devotees of Hossieni, a native-surrogate of dominant culture trying to stereotype Islam and Muslims in general as the ‘other’. http://zcommunications.org/zbooks/review/6
(‘The Kite Runner’ Critiqued: New Orientalism Goes to the Big Screen)
All of his works should be viewed keeping this crucial point in mind. Anyway, I don’t think most people get this. So, bleh.
(p.s. check out Oreintalism: Western Concepts of the Orient by Edward Said. Much can be learnt from that book regsrding this issue of literature and how it helps create a culture which sees the another culture as morally, intellectually inferior and primitive etc..)
April 9, 2008 at 7:27 PM
Nuqtah u said some good stuff thats exactly what i mean.. ‘oh its just a fiction book’ ‘oh its not really bout taliban its about Amir’
Oh PALEEESEEEEE… every afghan knows what KH is tryna say .. and its really evil.
If i cud interview the guy
id have a lot to ask..
April 9, 2008 at 11:02 PM
Like another reader, I stumbled across this website looking for information on Khalid Hosseini.
I am neither Muslim nor Afghan, but for most of my adult life I have associated with Muslims and Afghans. By Afghan, I mean Pashtuns. I was a little put off by Hosseini’s treatment of Pashtuns in The Kite-Runner. Emir’s father is an immoral lecher, while the martyrs Ali and Hassan distinguish themselves through long-suffering servitude and loyalty. The negative portrayal of Emir’s father is reinforced by the portrayal of the rapist, who is not merely Pashtun, but Germano-fascisto-talibabo-Pashtun. National history, as portrayed in this novel, is the sorry story of cruel and narrow-minded Pashtun dominance over the other ethnic groups in the country.
Now, most of the Pashtuns I have known are not from Kabul. They’re from the provinces on both sides of the Durand line. They would doubtless interpret the history of Afghanistan differently:
The Kabuli Pashtuns, who have adopted western ways and forgotten that old standy of Pashtun identity, the Pashtiu language, would be considered by the rural population to be “Persians”, rather than Pashtuns. Even Zahir Shah was regarded with suspicion because he could not speak Pashtu. Moreover, the ethno-linguistic marker “Persian” conceals as much as it reveals. While it points to the adaptation of Dari and urban culture, it hides the class difference between the urban peasantry and the urban elite described by Husseini.
Husseini reads his elite figures as Pashtuns; many Pashtuns would not do the same.
If one puts these two renditions of history side-by-side, then Hosseini’s agenda becomes clear. His work seeks to reclaim the contributions of the Shia minorities ro Afghan society, while criticizing the inhumanity and hypocrisy of Pashtun domination.The agenda of the book, in other words, evokes the very ethnic tensions it seeks to depict. I wonder how Pashtuns reading it responded to it.
By the way, does anyone know for sure if Husseini is Shia? I suspected he was because of the family name he uses and because of his positive depictions of Shia. But I would like to replace conjecture with information that is substantively grounded.
April 9, 2008 at 11:10 PM
P. S. Pllease excuse the typos and spelling mistakes. There’s no editing tool. :-( At least I was consistent! :-)
April 17, 2008 at 6:06 PM
As a non-Muslim American I find this to be an incredibly fascinating discussion.
From my perspective (and I believe the perspective of a great many like me) Suns wasn’t really “propagandistic.” I read a story about the struggles of two women in a war-torn country, suffering through a series of authoritarian regimes.
I think those who take this to be a criticism of Islam are being a bit thin skinned. After all, the heroes of the story are Muslim as well, no?
The history of Afghanistan servers as the canvas and back drop of to the personal histories of the principal characters. Granted, the author may have taken some liberties with the factual historical events. Artists often do this. But on the whole I think the background in the story served well to advance the plot.
On a personal note, I would urge those of you worried about the negative stereotypes to give some credit to the intellectual faculties of most of the readers. This is a work of fiction, as has been noted, and those who read will be familiar with the literary devices employed. There’s no need to see this work as anti-Islam any more than The Da Vinci Codewas anti-Catholic (and Hosseini is a much better writer than Dan Brown).
The message of Suns wasn’t anti-Islam. It was anti-war and anti-oppression and pro-faith.
FYI: Here are my original thoughts on the book from several months ago.
April 17, 2008 at 6:56 PM
Emawkc, thanks for the comment. It’s difficult to be thick-skinned when Muslims and Islam are vilified everyday. And while this is a work of fiction, you should note that fictional characters have been always historically used to push stereotypes or agendas. At some point fiction becomes fact in the minds of many people. Think of movie villains, who while they may be kind people in real life, start being despised. Fictionalize certain elements as rogue enough times and you get “reel bad arabs”
Propaganda comes in many forms. And I insist that fiction doesn’t escape it.
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May 15, 2008 at 10:24 PM
I read both books.. i have to acknowledge that some of the arguments presented here are somewhat valid but seriously it doesn’t create a bad impression of Muslims. As a non-muslim reader i found the stories to be very compelling, it is fiction and rather most people of america who are drawn to his works are readers with a fondness in literature. its not like we are thickheaded enough to believe every single word written. there are plenty of other fictional novels based in america with dreadful stories but if you’ve read any… you dont believe everything they write. I believe these novels were written to help the muslim society and the world.. it is true it has exaggerations but what better way is there to help someone see their flaws and fix them. The novels have made me more aware of the intricate customs in other countries it has led me to find the true facts about muslim society and how it works. as for helping the world… prejudice is a common practice everywhere.. even here in america where equality is so revered. I found both novels to have very powerful lessons that must not be applied only to muslims.
September 12, 2008 at 6:12 PM
JazakAllah kheir Br. Amad for posting a review for this book. I will leave my comments out since I’m sure you’ve heard enough feedback. However, I had the intention to follow up The Kite Runner with Hosseini’s second novel until I read your post. I strongly appreciate you having provided a glimpse into the book from an Islamic perspective.
I wish similar reviews could be given for other Western literature, such as Anonymouse’s rant on Jones’ A jewel of Madina. With modern use of flowery, emotional talk, it is easy for the audience to get swayed by some top notch author; a Muslim’s insight into the issue serves as a good reality check.
October 27, 2008 at 8:03 AM
I have read both books.
I am not a muslim or Afghani. There is all this talk about what is the truth about afghanis etc. I think all these points are ridiculous. I found that ten thousand splendid suns was a beautiful but definitely very sad story. If you dont want to read a story which is sad, the answer is simple : dont! It’s nothing to do with the aurthor thats just your own personal choice.
I think its a great book. I think i has taught me a lot about what has happened in Afghanistan ( i’m not stupid and I know its part factual, part fictional) but the truth is that there are women who are oppressed such as there are in the western society. This story is of two women and their plight. This is something that is real and tangible. I believe a story such as this can exist and does exist.
These comments in the review:
“Also, the betrayal of Mariam and Laila by a “trustworthy-looking” Afghani for money does not represent the nature of Afghanis who will give up their lives for loyalty and honesty. I don’t doubt that many Rasheeds and Jalils existed and still exist in Afghanistan… but there are an equivalent number of Joes and Mikes in the Western societies who beat up their wives and/or have mistresses”
The comments made in the review made me mad, because I did not think for second that Afghanis are dishonest of loyal as a population. I belive that there are many amazing characters in the book such as Tariq, Marium herself, Laila, the man in the orphanage. These are all wodnerful honest characters , this is the afghani people I think of. The letter from Jalil in the end made me cry.
Every society be it white, black, american, English…..everyone has a traitor, so at the end of the day Laila and Maryum trusted a stranger: anyone would say this was a risk, in any part of the world you go to. It was a plausible situation, as a reader you would have hoped they made it on the bus but at the end of the day that was the story and it was quite frankley a plausible situation, not just for an Afghani but for anyone.
Least of all, for me…when you cannot see a womans face, you cannot see anything, this opened up a world, a life behind a lady in a full length burqua.
November 26, 2008 at 11:23 AM
Interesting discussion. I read A thousand splendid suns a few weeks ago while travelling and could not put it down (in spite of my decision to sleep during the flight!). I then shared it with my reading group here in Egypt and so far, all the sisters have absolutely loved it and we have thoroughly enjoyed discussing the issues it presents, the characters etc.
As mentioned before, it is a masterful piece of prose and the story and tension keep you gripped til the very end (when, in my opinion, after marium’s death, it flags slightly).
I was interested to read that the majority of people on the site found the book anti-Islam.
I felt that, in comparison to other books, KH was surprisingly positive about Islam. My experience of the mainstream ‘Muslim writer’ genre is that Islam and religious Muslims are routinely ridiculed and propagandised. I did not feel that this was the case in 1000 Splendid Suns for the following reasons:
– one of the most enduringly sympathetic characters in the book is the Imam of Marium’s childhood and he remains so to the end. It is so easy to introduce a two-faced imam or make the imam the perpetuator of abuse in a story. KH resisted doing that and allowed this religious character to remain unsullied – even his family were unfalteringly kind to Marium and her family, even after his death.
– the imam’s influence is felt throughout the book, both in Marium’s spirituality and, subsequently, Aziza’s (Laila’s daughter). They find solace in their Muslim faith, a fact often overlooked by other authors and not often celebrated.
– none of the most evil characters in the book are actually ‘religious’ – Marium’s husband’s insistence on her wearing the burqa is a purely cultural/ macho instinct, rather than a sense of religious ghairah. In addition, we are never given the impression that he is the kind of character who prays in the mosque and comes home to beat his wife black and blue. He is an awful husband, period. He would have been so in any scenario, in any culture, in any religion.
– Marium finds comfort in the burqa, unlike the author of The bookseller of Kabul who can’t stop going on about how hideous it is, how dirty, how oppressive, how inhumane etc etc ad infinitum. KH didn’t have to leave the burqa alone, he would have found an eager audience for the awfulness of it, as I am sure you are aware.
– even the Taliban who put Marium to death are shown as operating, not out of evil, but out of a belief in the rightness of what they are doing. They didn’t come across as insincere mysoginists (to me anyway), just overzealous or lacking in mercy and compassion. Marium doesn’t deny killing her husband and she admits it knowing the penalty she will face. I was greatly saddened by her death but, like a previous poster mentioned, in a strange way, her death was a redemption, ennobled her and, let’s face it, she returned to her Lord in peace. And that was what she wanted. She was never a selfish character and she paid the ultimate price for her love for Laila. In the best literary tradition, she died a death of honour, she died a heroine.
– none of the main characters end up rejecting Islam or criticise ISLAM per se, although the Taliban do come in for criticism.
– in reference to the stereotypes, these are common stereotypes found in all patriarchal societies, not just Afghani, not just Muslim
Look, I’m not saying that the book was not pandering to Western stereotypes – there certainly was a lot of that. KH is clearly aware of his target audience. I guess that as someone who writes in the mainstream, I thought that the book could have been way more critical of Islam, of Muslims, of the Taliban, than it actually was and would have found a very receptive audience.
Another writer who ‘got away with’ a positive portrayal of Islam is Leila Aboulela, author of The Translator and Minaret. It would be interesting to see either of those books by a prize-winning Sudanese Muslimah (hijabi, no less!) reviewed here. Because, let’s face it, there are precious few Muslims on the literary scene, even fewer who are able to get published by mainstream publishing houses and manage to straddle the divide between an appreciative though largely ignorant (of Islam) reading public and a critical and sensitive (with good reason) Muslim minority audience.
Ok, enough ranting!
December 13, 2008 at 3:18 AM
ssshez! that’s a lot of comments for a book. but hey! i read thousand suns and found it interesting…a good read…fictional..kinda like a love story. can’t wait for the movie! and what if the novel was biased? what’s a good read when no one is the villan? okay, maybe the novel was a bit overrated, but still, it makes the whole thing exciting…i mean, COOOOOLness!!!!!! Good Job on the book Hosseini! and no, i don’t know the guy…
January 3, 2009 at 11:42 PM
I think some of you need to do your research on the Taliban. Yes, they did help Afghanistan at one point of time and some still do but later on in their reign of power, they did turn things upside down.
There was a point where they discriminated against women and children. Some men were effected as well but women had the worst treatment imaginable. The Taliban made it seem as if women had no say whatsoever and that men controlled their every action. It got to a point where women were burning themselves because they would rather be dead than to bear the control men had over them. I’m not saying this was everywhere but the Taliban had total power over various parts of Afghanistan for an extended period of time. In some areas, they still hold that power.
You would think with all that they could do for the citizens, they would do some good but they really didn’t/don’t. Also, I read something about not all of what Khaled H. mentioned about the Taliban’s Shari’a law was true. It was, in fact, the truth. Citizens were not allowed to dance or paint or sing. They weren’t allowed to engage in any ‘fun’ entertainment. Women were beaten in public. A couple did get stoned to death. Women did indeed have to be escorted by a man whenever they went out. Women had to wear a burqa in public (and it had to be the colour blue) A person’s hands/feet were chopped off if they stole. If someone had committed a murder, they were publically executed. Many victims were executed in stadiums where people would watch. Female doctors had to perform surgery in a burqa. Women were not treated to hygenic hospitals and di have to travel far in order to get access to one that was. Men had to grow a beard and if they didn’t, they were sent to jail and were released only when it became bushy. Drugs were not to be used, yet the Taliban let Afghanistan to have the world’s highest percentage of opium production. The Taliban did in fact rape younger boys and girls then killed them. Not always, but usually. They did this and much, much, much more.
Khaled Hosseini wrote two excellent books which depicted the life of Afghanistan to the tiniest of degrees. How would I know? Because I lived throught the reign of the Taliban. I know how everyone was treated because I lived it. And as for the westerners who have a negative view on Muslims, who cares? Don’t some of us have a negative view on the Westerners? There’s something called opinion and we all have it. Each to one’s own. Whoever has taken the time to go out and research Afghan history would know how true Hosseini’s writing really is. I don;t think there is anyone who could have written ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ the way he has. He depicted female emotion in a way that is so clear and touching. Kudos to him.
January 10, 2009 at 1:15 AM
I read both of these books. I really like Kite Runner; even managed to get tickets to the premiere of it. So you can imagine how excited I was to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”
In my opinion, it was a HUGE disappointment. It seemed like he practically took the same story; just used female characters instead, and added 200% more violence to it. The book left me with a sick feeling in my stomach and as if it was unfinished. The story line seemed lacking in every way possible and you hardly felt connected with most of the characters. And, I agree with whoever said that before about Laila being an idiot. I couldn’t agree more.
I think KH was more of a one-hit kind of guy; as in he had his success with Kite Runner, and should have left it at that.
P.S. Just my opinion, so don’t attack me!
December 4, 2013 at 2:19 PM
Oh my gosh yes! I hated Laila’s character! She was so stupid. I believe that her character was created to please liberal Western ideals and values. She was a rebel and she had relations before marriage. Most Americans would appreciate this kind of character because of their strong belief in independence. And a thousand splendid suns gave me a sick feeling in my stomach too!
January 23, 2009 at 3:31 PM
apart from the whole scene of having aziza before even getting married to tariq, everything else was pretty good about the book. i can relate to it, i live in pakistan.. i dont exactly know what’s happening near the border but still, this book explains why afghanis came to pakistan for refuge. which i think is fair enough. the point is, even if there is controversy, it’s written beautifully. get the grey out of the black, and keep the white in your mind… that’s how you read a thousand splendid suns, honestly.
March 7, 2009 at 4:01 PM
A Thousand Splendid Suns was one of the best books I have ever read in my life!!!!! This article makes the novel sound so horrible, but in all reality, it is a really good book, in my opinion. The story was great, and it kept me interested on what was going to happen in every page that I flipped. I couldn’t put the book down!!! I started reading it, and I hated it that I had to stop to go to work. I took a day off and read the entire book in one day!!!! this novel is VERY good!!!
March 7, 2009 at 4:23 PM
Nathali, I never said the the novel wasn’t a good read.
March 8, 2009 at 4:52 PM
I don’t know about half of you, but I LOVED the book. I clearly understood Mariam’s desire not to go with Laila. She wanted to save them from being caught by the Taliban. She believed in self-sacrifice and justice, and turning herself in made her character even stronger. Maybe all of you should research Afganistan in the last couple decades. I did, and the historical facts in the book follow very closely to the history of the country. I especially love how Hosseini captures what it was like to be a woman growing up during this ere. I am doing a literary analysist on this book and how the two main characters grow and their similarities and differences. NOTE: If you didn’t understand this book, don’t post anything about it!!! You don’t know what you are talking about!!!
March 8, 2009 at 5:21 PM
“K”, you have a right to your opinion/review… everyone else has a right to their opinions and views. It is interesting that you expect us to accept that an anonymous commentator (i.e. you) “understands” the book, and everyone else doesn’t. Everyone looks at stories through their own prejudiced lenses, whether tainted by good biases or bad biases. I commend you on your historical analysis, but you have not stated anything that makes it appear that your knowledge is superior to others’ (not that it isn’t, you have presented any evidence for it). Regardless, even the neocons assume to have historical knowledge of Afghanistan, and have scholars of history among their ranks… doesn’t change the fact that they are highly prejudiced.
August 30, 2009 at 2:12 PM
K: Sitting away from a place like Afghanistan with the distance of one day and one night by flight, you can only refer to things that you have read about that country. You have not lived there and have not met the people in there. I am from Afghanistan and I understand why these books were written. The two books are written for a highly political purpose that indirectly benefited Iranian mentality and directly benefited the U.S. strategies.
At the time his first book was published, it was high time to use any source available for the US to tell the world why there is a need to invade Afghanistan. This book received reviews from high profile agencies while the literature was not even comparable to other authors. The book was pushed into other countries to make the youngsters especially read it so that it remains in their minds for long time. It was the time when US needed to polish the Pashtuns as Taliban by any fair and false means and pave the way for Northern Aliance (the Afghan war criminals and notorious warlords ) to take control.
Husseini is clearly promoting the Persian culture and languages in his books and portray Pashtuns as savage and underdeveloped which is totally insane. He is also trying to exaggerate the religious differences in Afghanistan which we do not need at this point in time. He was a greedy man and did find his money that he was more than he needed.
March 8, 2009 at 5:47 PM
“especially love how Hosseini captures what it was like to be a woman growing up during this ere”
I don’t know…he seems to be missing some essential biology to perform that feat…not to mention the fact he wasn’t there during that time anyway….
Sorry, I just like dotted (ie. …) thoughts.
March 8, 2009 at 11:56 PM
I’ve read “Kite Runner” and I think it is a very dishonest book. The author is himself a Shi’ite, and yet he writes in first person for a character who is Sunni. Can one imagine a “Wahhabi” writing a book in the first person for a Shi’ite character? The book was horribly biased. I think that even from a purely entertainment standpoint, the book was mediocre at best, and I think that the rave reviews were in part due to the fact that it was written by an Afghani critical of what the West wants them to be critical of. I’m no fan of the Taliban, as is clear from my posts on this site. But nonetheless, the book was just Shi’ite Rafidhi propaganda. It was not just an attack on the Taliban, but rather an attack on Sunni Islam in general.
Speaking of Shi’te Rafidhi propaganda, anyone read Raza Aslan’s garbage book called “No god but God”? Raza Aslan prefaces his book by saying that many will pass takfeer on him for what he wrote…as if writing that disclaimer makes it all ok! His words are full of kufr, accusing the Prophet [s] of being an idol-worshiper before he became a prophet, quoting the Quran with the words “Muhammad said” instead of “Allah [swt] said”, etc. Much of his book reads like Answering-Ansar, the Shi’ite propaganda website: he insults Umar [ra], Uthman [ra], and Muawiyyah [ra]. He viciously attacks Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab [ra], taking all his information from the apostate Hamid Algar. But not only is Raza Aslan a heretic, he is a heretic’s heretic, because not even the Rawaafidh would accept his heresies: Raza Aslan claims that hijab is not mandatory and was added into Islam later and all sorts of other revisionist claims.
I can’t believe that his book got so popular. Angers me. Well, I can believe it. After all, that’s what our masters the West want from us.
March 9, 2009 at 12:10 AM
Please O Rawaafidh and their supporters, let’s stop the Taqiyyah. Khalid Husseini is a Shi’ite. Read:
Here is what one Rafidhi says on RafidhiChat.com:
So disingenuous to write a novel from the perspective of an (imaginary) Sunni person in order to further their Shi’ite propaganda. I like how the Rafidhi forgot to mention how the Hazaras also have massacred Pashtuns historically…but of course that would take away from the Shi’ite victim mentality. And let’s not forget how it all started with Shah Ismail I who put all of Sunni Persia to the sword, which is what started the entire matter to begin with.
Fi Aman Allah
July 8, 2009 at 5:00 PM
is this book based on a true story or just made up?
September 5, 2009 at 6:49 PM
Totally agree with the review. In the Kite Runner Hosseini even goes so far as to praise Israel for ‘standing up’ to the bullying Arab states around it (excuse me how is stripping the Palestinians of their human rights and using UK/USA military backing honourable?) I felt angry and sick and all through the novel the Christian missionaries with their orphanage are shown as the saviours (what about Islamic Relief that actually works in Afghanistan??) And the one dimensional portrayal of the Taleban was a blatant justification for an illegal invasion of a nation. He should be ashamed of himself really. Hope he enjoys his millions that he earnt by betraying his people. It is also extremely suspect how the ‘book clubs’ of America used their power to popularise this book at the same time of the invasion. Conspiracy theories? proof is in the kite runner mate. But God is watching and He is the Best of Judges. I hope the Americans can help u on the Day of Judgement mate. I doubt it though.
September 18, 2009 at 10:41 AM
Its a shame many readers of this article have little or no real knowledge of Afghan politics and history other than pro-Taliban rhetoric which spurs from the lips of many misogynistic folk. If the book contained any anti-Taliban sentiments, there is a reason for it – because society overall did not fare well under them.
With regards to the notion that Hosseini could not possibly write a story from an Afghan point of view simply because he wasnt in Afghanistan during the Taliban reign, I beg to differ. All the world over authors write detailed and accurate accounts of life in other societies with the help of a little word called ‘research’. With this marvel, journalists, authors etc tell us about life elsewhere. If anyone even bothered to read about Khaled Hosseini or heard him speak (you only need to YouTube his name and I’m sure a few of his speaking appointments will pop up) you’ll find that most of the characters from A Thousand Splendid Suns were based on real women. Of course names and specifics were changed, but the struggle of women in Afghanistan under such a totalitarian regime was an experience shared by Afghan women the nation over.
Another point I’d like to add is just because a fact or statement originates in the West, does not mean it is false. For alot of people here it seems okay to dismiss the book based on assumptions it is pushing a somewhat ‘American agenda’. Despite the rising death rate of Afghans under NATO occupation, there are Afghans who do support foreign presence which they feel is necessary to combat the Taliban resurgence.
As a Muslim, and a Sunni for the matter, I find it absolutely outrageous to read some choose to not read Hosseini’s works simply on the basis that he may be Shia. This is exactly the same type of misguided thinking that is fueling sectarian violence and bloodshed in Iraq. Afghan society, like all others, is not black and white and to treat it as such leads one onto a dangerous path. To believe afghanistan is a monolithic entity is to be wholy ignorant of its demographics, and with that single stroke nullifies any base for critics to speak. Hosseini articulately explains in The Kite Runner the mistreatment of Hazaras. Ignore the fact of whether they were Shia or Sunni. They were human beings persecuted by other human beings, and this oppression was very real.
To conclude, I would like to invite the critic and those who have commented on this post to educate themselves on Afghan politics and history. Let us not fall victims to sensationalist propaganda out to stifle voices seeking to portray the truth. It is very easy to criticise and assault, but takes longer to study and articulate your thoughts. For the sake of Afghanistans men, women, children and future, let us not be lazy.
On a final note I would like to suggest, if you cannot live under Taliban rule, or would not wish to let your loved ones live under Taliban rule, do not selfishly prescribe that way of life on other people.
September 18, 2009 at 10:59 AM
I would like to add Khaled Hosseini’s research was conducted on his trip to Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban, upon which he met women who shared their strories. It is these stories which helped shape the characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns.
July 17, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Excellent review with good points throughout.
November 1, 2009 at 6:02 AM
I read both books. As a writer, he can sure captivate.
From reading both books, these are my reflections that I derived for myself:
Surely when a nations falters to follow the Quran and sunnah properly, they are afflicted with humiliation, and it affects everyone, even if they’re good.
We always need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture in our daily life, so we don’t get caught up in skewed ways of life.
Racial prejudice, subhanallah, just from the different ways a person looks, can really be fodder for Shaytaan.
there are many more but the first reflection is the one that stood out in me after reading both books.
that’s what I took from reading the book. It’s fiction and it’s not favorable towards Muslim (which is fair game in fiction) so might as well make it beneficial.
Human stories depict so many things. HUman stories are happning everyday, and if we can take lessons from it, it can surely benefit us. inshaallah..
December 2, 2009 at 4:51 PM
how would you relate the story of the Afghani repulsion of the soviets? What does this say to the US to present? What are some similarities and some differences you guys see?
March 1, 2010 at 2:44 PM
I have just read this book. Congrats to Khaled first of all.
I really enjoyed this book, but for some reason, Khaled isn’t that reliable. The way he portays Muslims is completely nonsene. The real question is..
is khaled Hosseini a devoted muslim?
Because if he was he wouldn’t let the world read his books and get a false interpretation of Islam.
He bought shame to islam!
I spend my english lessons debating over islam with my fellow students, who suddenly have a misunderstading of islam.
Maybe his next book could influence people.
March 1, 2010 at 4:32 PM
I read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ a few months back and I’m currently reading ‘The Kite Runner’. After reading ATSS, as much as I adored his writing style, it was far too obvious that there was an underlying portrait that Hosseini was attempting to paint. Though many in the West receive this book in all its writing glory (and colour) I think there is a black and white picture that is visible. I found myself sighing through many of the parts in the book where ‘stereotype’ Islam was being portayed. Well done for the article above, you hit the nail on the head.
July 22, 2010 at 1:25 AM
First, how I come here:
I’m Russian from St.Petersburg and farther of three kids, which certainly influence my opinion on this book, which I read recently. I’m not a Muslim though, so, please, accept my apologies for my possible ignorance in this field.
Two things led me to look for the different opinion on this book:
1) The author if Afghani, who leaves in US now. So the bias was to be expected.
2) Khaled’s biography told me, that he actually did not experience either the Mujahidin rule in Kabul, or the Taliban rule first hand.
Also, I was rather reading about Afghanistan, and then about the specific people until Mariam killed Rasheed. After this event the book was more of the criminal story, than an account of the country’s history through the life of its citizens. Also the praise of the US invasion was so obvious at the end of the book that it was not realistic at all, looked rather an edited story from the CNN.
But while you have the access to the internet, you have the freedom of speech or the freedom to the get the different views at least. And here I’m thankful to Amad and all those who left comments here.
Please, accept some of my comments here:
First, some negative staff in the book is nothing to do with Islam or Afghani people – rough husbands are rough everywhere, including any country in Western Europe or America.
Second, forced marriages or no forced marriage, the rate of divorces and hence kids without full families is the outrageous fact of life of the whole human kind. Love and falling in love are two different things and falling in love does not warrant the marriage being successful. Some people even say it’s often vise versa. Also, AFAIK, many nations even in Europe do practice marriages to be approved by the relatives, if not arranged by them.
Skinheads in Europe are no better then mujahidin from the negative accounts about them.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to justify what Rasheed or other people have done, I’m rather trying to see it in perspective. BTW, Amad is calling him “old, fat fart” â€“ he is not fat, as far as I remember.
Some other small inconsistencies: later Amad writes that Laila agrees to the marriage to “protect her honor”. Well not only that, but the child, even without the strict Muslim view on the kids outside of a marriage, how would she have been supporting herself and the kid, once her home and parents are gone with the wind?
While the story is fictional â€“ how much is true about the overall account of recent history in the country? What is factually wrong?
Any suggestion, what should someone read to get unbiased view on the jihad against Soviets or on Taliban rule?
The hospital story. I have difficulty justifying the thing, if it’s factual and not exaggerated. I’m the loving father and husband, so such a deliberate withdrawal if medical assistance to women irks me. Can somebody offer me the reasons behind it? I recall (maybe wrongly) that it was not the period when the Taliban was in heavy fighting and could not spare the medicines for the women.
I don’t believe that women are specifically suppressed in Islamic countries â€“ rather their freedoms and protection is manifested differently from the ways it is considered “normal” in Europe. Example is the mentioning of burkha as the protection by both Mariam and Laila. Ideally, I’d like to hear the story from a Muslim woman, but I’d appreciate if at least male Muslims here will share with me their point of view. I don’t believe in emancipation myself â€“ men and women are not equal and canâ€™t be, at least until men will start to bear children. The respect should be mutual though between males and females, IMHO. I don’t see the face covering as particularly harmful for the women, rather a cultural or religious thing.
Shariah and rape â€“ how do they coincide? With the Christian faith weak, Islam looks much stronger, so I expect people being truer to their beliefs there. Then how can they protect the women, expect them to cover themselves in public and then violate them? Does not seem logical to me.
The Taliban rule set. First of all â€“ I don’t know of how much of Taliban list is exactly Shariah, and how much modern or restored interpretation of Shariah, not speaking of the facts, that as it is a fictional story and Khaled was not in Afghanistan during these times â€“ how much of the list was indeed in the “real” Taliban list. There was Draconian constitution though in Greece, which was even harsher. It could be that this was necessary to quell the lack of order during the mujahidin times. Some rules are simply strange and does not seem too harmful to me. Prohibition of the TV should not be much to the people, who were killed/raped on the streets. Strange â€“ ok, but not something to justify the invasion.
On “why Mariam decided to stay” I’ll have to disagree with you (Amad) here â€“ she stayed to avoid the fugitives life for Laila and Tariq. BTW, I have no especially “bitter” feeling about the Taliban because of that. A murder is a murder and I believe she would have been prosecuted in Europe as well. Not killed as the death sentences are mostly abolished, but they still exist in US for example. Also, she is executed not because Taliban did not accept her story â€“ they did. It’s just that the story was no excuse as it will be no excuse for the many judges in other countries. I don’t know if the Taliban, Islam or Shariah is really less trusting to the women â€“ would appreciate an advice here.
On Buddha statues… Ok, I’m biased here being from the St.Petersburg and adoring its beauty and cultural life. Even so, while leaving in the middle of the war and experiencing the draught, the people in Kabul still cared for the Titanic story. Why not the grandeur of the statues?
“Also, the betrayal of Mariam and Laila by a â€œtrustworthy-lookingâ€ Afghani for money does not represent the nature of Afghanis who will give up their lives for loyalty and honesty.”
Isn’t the “betrayal” here is only from a “European” perspective? This guy abided the law and why should he felt loyalty and honesty towards a complete stranger, who is actually cheating her husband, however justified. It was not honest to take the money, but again, we don’t know his story. He could have been needing the money badly (like Tariq needed blanket for this mother in the camp and threatened another person with sharp object) or maybe another women cheated himself or his friend/relative and tried to run away with the kid â€“ will not be tolerated or sympathized in Western Europe as well in most of the cases.
Amad and many commentators point to the imbalance of the depiction of the various factions in the book. While there is a point here, let me show some examples of balance below. Apart from few areas the balance does exist from my perspective.
Tariq: main character from one side, while threatening the boy at the camp and involved in drug smuggle attempt.
Rasheed: crude male, who is still courting his women and who adores his son (with the son answering).
Mariam: while suffered most of her life, she did not forgive her father, when he came and didn’t even read the letter, she also killed Rasheed. She had her reasons, but still a killing is a killing, you can discount it only so much.
Laila: while being the positive character, she lied; she planned to kill her son in the womb
Jalil: left his lover with the kid in a shack, but still visited the kid and urged sons to bring food to them. Many Europeans leave their wife and kids and abandon them completely.
Mujahidin: there are some positive words about some of them here and there and those joined jihad against the Soviet (including Laila’s brothers) are praised many times. It was also mentioned that US lost its interest in Afghanistan, once the Soviets retreated.
Taliban: you hit the spot here. They are depicted mostly from the negative side with the exception of the couple of mentioning that they brought order and security â€“ it is mentioned at least twice. Another positive about them went from Rasheed, who is negative character, so his praise is heavily discounted.
BTW, I got an impression that all the years, while Taliban ruled the Kabul, it was a draught in Afghanistan, which could have been one of the reasons for the Afghani people suffering during the Taliban rule.
On the added comment about Mariam’s life to be too tragic â€“ well, Russian novels are notorious of being full with sorrow, so it does not trouble me too much and again she had her inner freedom at the end and she made her life worthwhile. Life is tragic most of the times, and if you find a particular person with no problems at all â€“ most probably you don’t know him close enough. We should not give up though.
On another comment later â€“ stoned to death vs killed on the street. Have a difficulty here personally. My choice between slow and official death (stoning) vs quick bullet will be quick bullet. And again, I don’t see why intentional torturous way of official killing can be justified by more numerous bullet deaths on the street. Especially taking into the account, that stoning is for adultery, not for numerous street deaths. I’d probably agree with the stoning of the mujahidin for the havoc on the streets of Kabul, with which you do compare it, but ask for mercy to the unfaithful. It’s certainly a cultural thing here, I’m afraid, and my intense fear of the “slow death”.
On the comment from Abu Omar.
Having read the links, it looks to me as the opposite story, but the one not nearer to the truth. You claim there is crusade against Islam, and then instantly you call for the jihad against non-Muslims. It’s easy to paint the world black and white but it’s never appropriate. But the Fatwa call exactly for this â€“ defend Muslims against others at all costs, no matter what Muslims are doing, even if they commit the atrocities. With such an approach piece will never come or it will come only once all are Muslims or no Muslims. Apologies, but such Fatwa are much more damaging, then any book of Khaled â€“ it’s jihad till the full conversion of all the human beings to Islam. Now, you’ll probably be surprised, but there are many people who prefer to maintain their own point of view.
Another gross exaggeration is to call the US war in Afghanistan “a crusade against Islam”. Why do you think they care? They care about money, world power (which allows them to earn more money), not the souls. US put Iran and North Korea on the same level as their main enemies. Now, North Korea has nothing to do with Islam, has it? In Yugoslavia, US were siding with Albans, who are predominantly Muslims, against Serbs, who are predominantly Christians. While the real issue was about one of the three Cobalt mines on Earth, the one which is in Yugoslavia by chance. And, please, remember, that US did support the Taliban in their war against Soviet Union army. As I said, religion is only the second guess for US, even if it is a reason enough for some or many Muslims.
Mixing of US and UN (United Nations) is not true in 2nd Fatwa. US is not the only one, which has veto there and while UN is not an ideal organization, well, this is earth, not paradise, so nothing “ideal” can happen here.
“It is obligatory upon the Muslims to take on the [necessary] means of [attaining] honour, which AllÃ¢h has made for his believing servants. The Most High says, “And to AllÃ¢h belongs the honour, and to his Messenger, and to the believers, but the Hypocrites do not know.” The only reason for the humiliation of the Muslims, and their following of their enemies is that they have turned away from their religion, the weakness of their Ã®mÃ¢n, and their disunity, to the extent that they left JihÃ¢d in the path of AllÃ¢h. The Prophet – sallallÃ¢hu ‘alayhi wa sallam – said, “When you deal with ‘Ã®nah (a very subtle usurious transaction), and become satisfied with agriculture, and leave JihÃ¢d in the path of AllÃ¢h, He will send humiliation upon you, and he will not remove it from you until you return to your religion.””
No, does this mean in simple terms, that every Muslim has to fight Jihad against non-Muslim until the very end?
Amad, in your comment #11 you insist that Mariam’s staying to answer before the Taliban is “forced”. Well, you remember â€“ she already tried to escape with Laila earlier, so that can be supportive to her decision to stay â€“ she was afraid to snick away due to previous failure. Again, I’m not so much fan of the West European order, but still â€“ the killing, even in defense is a killing and I can’t say that the death of Mariam strengthened my dislike of Taliban â€“ most of the courts will do the same, nothing specific Taliban, Afghani or Muslim is in that. The Old Testament says: “eye for an eye”.
November 15, 2010 at 12:30 AM
A good review by Amad, and a beautiful comment thread that follows. Enjoyed reading how patiently and sincerely everyone has put across their thoughts. and thank you Igor, you have explained in detail some of the thoughts I had in mind.
I am an Indian, and honestly, I had very negative thoughts about Afghanistan. But after reading the Kite runner, I could actually appreciate the culture and people of that country.
Although, after Kite runner, I felt thousand suns was a little predictable. But again, it helped me appreciate Islam and its teachings.I could appreciate why a woman loves wearing her burqa. I felt there was perfect balance maintained in the story, and if it was a little less fictional, it would have been hard for me to sit through the end. How many people are interested in reading detailed history anyway? thousand splendid suns could have been exaggerated even more- Laila & Mariam could have been raped by Taliban etc- but he refrained from going into such unnecessary violence just to win the sympathy of readers. Mariam’s trial actually made me think the jury was very compassionate to her, but the death sentence was inevitable.
I dont know whether the writer is a Shia or a Sunni, I don’t understand the differences. All I know is, for a non Muslim that I am, it helped me understand and appreciate a new religion and a new country.
July 26, 2010 at 3:07 AM
this book is one of d most beautiful book i ve ever read!!!!!!
its sescribes the suffering of people specially women in the eraof war!!!!!!!!!
August 3, 2010 at 2:52 AM
the Kite runner and A Thousand Spendid Suns have more or less the same theme and background.It revolves aorund the suffering of the Afganis at that time.But i found this book more optimistic in nature than the kite runner.And i really wanted mariam to go and live with Laila and Tarik and then come back with laila to the orphanage…They shared a relationship with no name but a very deeper meaning.Both Laila and Mariam got something good from their harsh lives……….This book is a must read acc to me
December 20, 2010 at 11:53 PM
To me, an American student who has studied Afghanistan culture extensively, I feel obligated to say that this review is garbage. This is less a review, and more a rabble against America. Yes I agree that the majority of Americans have a short attention span, and can rarely sit through even a commercial before flipping the channel – But in your attempt to classify this book as a stereotypical westernized novel has failed. Instead you have stereotyped yourself as a common know-nothing. Your lack of insight makes me wonder if you even read the book, or if you simply used sparknotes.
In my opinion this novel attempts to uplift a people who are looked down upon. The author attempts to lift them up by showing us that behind every burqa is a story untold, rather than a faceless specter. Yes, while this novel was written with the western civilization in mind, I feel he does justice to the mainstay of Afghanistan culture by adhering to certain standards in his description. But keep in mind, this is a great work of fiction!
If you would like to read a real review of this book, go here:
December 21, 2010 at 1:46 AM
“garbage”, “know-nothing”, “lack of insight”… nice.
Seems you didn’t study Afghanistan culture extensively enough to be gracious in criticism, esp. to your host :)
People read and study things from different perspectives, shaped by their own experiences and biases. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But I stand by my review and know that many have benefited from it (as the comments suggest).
June 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM
As an American who has not studied Afghan culture extensively, I have to agree with Amad in his assertion that Ryan is well off-base in the manner in which he has chosen to share his opinion. It’s the “typical” internet response where you throw poop like a monkey in the zoo and toss around insults like a tough-guy. I applaud Amad for his restraint in not tossing feces back across the cage.
With regards to the book. I got it from a friend who was getting rid of all his books to switch over to Kindle. He literally gave me boxes upon boxes of books, so I wound up reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by complete chance. I found this page similarly when I wanted to find out if the story was based on fact or purely fabricated. It’s been an interesting experience reading through these comments as this is a subject that I have very little background in.
I think that both Hosseini’s critics and his supporters are missing out on an important point here. That being the fact that there is no perfect “truth” to be written about, neither about the history of Afghanistan or any other subject. Every story we tell is a reflection of our own perspective, and so the criticisms pointing to Hosseini’s background are pointless…everyone’s background will reflect their own personal perspective. When a brother and a sister will tell a completely different story about the happenings inside their own home, then clearly the more removed the story being told strays from personal experience the even greater the gap is in how the story is told.
Undoubtedly there are many women who would agree 100% that the experiences of Mariam and Laila very accurately mirror experiences in their lives, and undoubtedly you’d find many women who would tell you that these stories are gross exaggerations. They’d both be telling the truth as they’d be basing their statement off of their own experiences.
So yes, while the book was written from perhaps too much of a pro-Western slant, I don’t feel that the author was trying to create a work of pro-American propaganda, just as most of the posters here who disagree with the book are not necessarily writing anti-American diatribes. His experiences, and surely the experiences of his parents, shaped his view on the history of his birth country. Just as our experiences have shaped our own. If I were to write a 400 page story about the United States, based on my honest life experiences, there would be thousands of people lining up to tell me how wrong I was and how that’s not what it’s really like.
As another poster here mentioned, an intelligent reader can see that not only are the villains Muslim, but that the heroes are as well, so I don’t necessarily think that the Muslim stereotypes were over the top. After all, some practices such as some Muslim’s requiring the wearing of a burqa are well documented. If anything I think that Hosseini was expressing his opinion that you can still be Muslim without following archaic anti-female practices…now, before I get in trouble in here, Christianity is littered with nearly identical misogynistic beliefs and practices, it is just that they have fallen out of favor over the past 100 years or so….but both religions take a very pro-man position, as does Judaism and pretty much every other religion man has come up with.
Interestingly, as my presence in this forum was merely coincidental, I think that what I’ve learned most from reading the book and reading through the comments here, is that for every image of truth and reality that you paint, there will always be someone else who sees the same image in a completely different light.
January 6, 2011 at 6:39 PM
I agree with this review. It wasn’t worth the read…it was extremely depressing…and hard to read through..I stopped many times and then continued. In a sense it was nice to read but overall it wasn’t …
February 27, 2011 at 2:43 PM
I’m a student working on my dissertation. My topic is “The portrayal of Muslim women in films and books by Muslims.” I did not want to study the done-to-death topic of the western portrayal of Muslim women. What I am essentially studying is that, since there seems to be a common consensus that the West stereotypes Islam and the way Muslim women are treated by their own community, how different is a Muslim’s portrayal? Do Muslims too sometimes get tempted to exaggerate to sell their work per se. One of the books I have chosen is A Thousand Splendid Suns. While I loved reading the book, I do agree to a certain extent that it was written with a western audience in mind. The other books I have chosen are “A Crooked Line” by Ismat Chughtai and “Blasphemy” by Tehmina Durrani. Any opinions on these? I would love to get an insight on how the community feels in the way their brothers and sisters portray them to the rest of the world — positive or negative.
Very stimulating debate up here. Looking forward to some responses.
Thanks and Regards
Wael - IslamicAnswers.com
February 27, 2011 at 9:32 PM
It shouldn’t be surprising that any book about Muslims that is popular in the West is going to be one that denigrates Muslims and panders to Western biases and stereotypes.
Khadija Bibi Randeree
March 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM
i read a thousand splendid suns and first of all, i think you worry too much about the details. i think this is an excellent book. i love his writing style because it is FLOWY and keeps me in touch of the characters. it’s not skimpy at all. i think he has a good portrayal of islam and it is done in such a way that the west understands islam in afghanistan, without giving away too much detail that the west can misinterpret. he blends in the lives of the afghan people, the struggle in the war and the strengh of islam to create this message of hope and love.
truly a magnificent book. 10/10
May 15, 2011 at 1:13 AM
I have read ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and all i can say is that it’s been a long time since i have read a book which i cannot put down. These two books brought out so many feelings and emotions and in some parts i was in tears. All i know is, fiction or not, when a writer can make you feel this way then he is a very talented and gifted writer. I can’t wait until Khalid Hosseini writes another book, i’ll be first in line to buy it that’s for sure!
May 22, 2011 at 4:09 PM
I have been reading the book. I have startd to realize the propaganda the artist is using. Which made me google about him and alhamdulilaah, i hve come here. I will finish reading this book and see the propaganda he uses. He just wants the western audience to applaude him for this. I had wanted to read his other book, but i have seen that it will also be filled so much of is propaganda so i won’t even go there.. Anyway, I love the mullah mariam was living with; with her mother. I hate the way he uses lots of romance; muslims rebelling against their religion. That guy is a bag of potato!
February 29, 2012 at 11:03 PM
As a non muslim, LOL I like how in kiterunner, it didn’t add the fact that the US financially supported Taliban to provoke Russian invasion and make Afghanistan anticommunist. So if Kiterunner was true, US supported a genocidal, phedophilic, nazi fasist group of terrorists.
April 4, 2012 at 8:22 PM
I wanted to mention a point here about the Buddhist statues. Laila actually did show indifference to their demolition at one point in the story b/c her own life had too much suffering for her to care for them; (i think her apathy for their demolition was mentioned at the end of the chapter in which the statues were destroyed).
HOWEVER, it DOES seem like the author glorifies the Buddhist statues more than he
does Islam. When he writes about the statues, he tells of how beautiful and majestic they look, and how they are a precious piece of Afghan culture and history BEFORE the Muslim conquerors came and spread Islam. This description of Afghan history makes Buddhism look great and romantic while it makes Muslims look like the bad guys. DISCLAIMER: I do not intend to show disrespect to any religion through this discussion. i am simply pointing out how negatively Islam is portrayed in comparison to other religions, which is absolutely unfair.
After the death of Laila’s brothers, the author mentions a man reciting the Qur’an in a “nasally voice” and people crying theatrically at the funeral (as if they were doing it for show, not b/c they really meant it)- thus portraying the whole Muslim funeral in a negative light. Also, the book does not really show how Islam is a religion of peace and mercy- it barely has words about Allah’s mercy except at the very end when Mariam is about to be executed (then it mentions Allah as the Great Forgiver). Otherwise, I really think that the book portrayed Islam as simply a religion of compulsion in which Muslims are forced to submit and obey. It does not show (at least I don’t think it does) the real sincerity a lot of Muslims have for their religion, apart from showing how Mariam always did Namaaz and Tasbeh (the rosary). But then again, this side of Mariam can be seen by the Western world as how religion is simply a form of relief for the poor and suffering, not a vibrant way of life that people energetically follow- it did not portray that side of Muslims and Islam at all.
September 5, 2012 at 7:36 PM
Iam an afghan my self, and I totally agree with this review. As an afghan his made books made me very sad! I know there are bad and good people in every country (including Afghanistan), but most afghan men would give their life to protect a women. This is what the afghan are known for, but he gives this image of afghans men that makes me very angry. He present us like animals.
He didnt even grew up in afghanistan, he only saw Kabul and then moved to uSA
He is also trying to give the majority of afghan ethnic groups bad reputation. He makes them as the oprsers and the other ethnic group as the victim. which is completely wrong. I know many people from both of this wthnic group who are married with each other.
The thing abot Budha satue, THE AFGHANS HAD SO MUCH PROBLEM THAT A BUDDHA STATUE WAS THE LAST THING TO THINK ABOUT!. The people during that time was thinking about how to fix bread for next meal so their children wouldnt starve!.AMERICA HAD PUT SANCTIONS AGAINST TALIBAN SO THERE WAS NO IMPORTING OF ANYTHING TO THE COUNTRY.
Iam not a taliban symphatizer, BUTMost of the crimes against civilians happened during the civil war before taliban, most of the rape,murdr and kidnapping. A women couldnt go outside her home she could be raped.
I remebr during civil war how my mother and sisters were scared,many men didnt sleep during night because they were protecting their homes and women so some warlord wouldnt attack them during night.
Over 40000 ppl died only in kabul during civil war.When the taliban came to power people were very happy because they gave us the security we really wanted. THE BANNED DRUGS, THEY BANNED WEAPONS ETC.
I DONT AGREE WITH MANY THINGS THEY DID:LIKE BANNING GIRL SCHOOLS, TV ETC, but they were much beter than those warlords before them, AT LEAST WE COULD SLEEP DURING THE NIGHT.
ITS FUNNY THAT SOME WESTERNER HERE SAYS, THAT THEY HAVE STUDIED AFGHAN CULTURE AND KNOW ABOUT IT LOL.You dont get knowledge about afghanistan from some books or visiting afghanistan for some days living in luxery hotels with security! you have to live among the people to understand.
August 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Educate yourselves! if you can’t read a book with someone’s perspective being different then yours, or even realize that this is based on real events, then you have no reason to comment on this book not being “good enough.” This is one of my favorite books, and its interlaced with historical events although it’s non fiction, I’m sure similar things have happened. This book is purposely written in a DIFFERENT perspective, your point of view does not have to be the same to read it or understand it but it might change or broaden it a little. The man is the writer, who knows what his opinion is on anything political in the story the opinion was of the characters, or the way most people thought. I’m not saying he doesn’t feel the same way or purposely stride his writing in that direction but it shouldn’t matter. That’s the perks of being a good writer or reader. This review, in my opinion, is very inaccurate and you should all give this book a chance. Kite Runner is also a very good book, I agree that they’re both very tragic but also very realistic, although it seems crazy that some things’ like this have happened/are happening in the world, which is not taking sides just being honest. Have a great day, and maybe reread this book so you can re understand it, I’m pretty sure you missed the point the first time. Thanks.
August 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Also, most stereotypes are true anyways! Not all of course, but where else would they come from if there isn’t any fact in them? Most of these comments are about people getting offended for no good reason. It’s disappointing that most of you missed the point and had these thoughts during this beautifully written tragedy.
August 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM
I am also Muslim myself, and I was not at all offended. May I add, although I don’t think it should change anything.
November 25, 2013 at 10:54 AM
Well i strongly disagree to this review.it is a fiction i dont understand why people are discussing about hosseini being sunni or shia….important thing is that he gave his readers amazing story to read.
As far as end of maryam’s life is concerned yes…i believe that too that part could have been better .but what so ever,its a great novel…that is Khaled’s story and i feel it should be appreciated
December 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM
I agree with your view completely. When I was younger and in high school I picked up the thousand splendid suns book because I wanted to learn more about afghani culture. You see, my father has Pashtun ancestry and I wanted to learn more… Anyways, I read the book and half way through I liked it. It seems like hosseini was really honest in showing conditions about women there. Then I got to Laila and the husband and it was a spiral downward from there. Khaled obviously uses American ideals to have his western audience sympathize with him. Like how Laila is a rebel and has relations before marriage. Also the book relies on stereotypes. Like that all afghan men are bad. *cough* did anyone notice how the main antagonist was Pashtun? He never talks about the good things in Afghanistan only the bad. He portrays the Taliban as grotesque and violent. He is trying to convince the western people that the war in Afghanistan is justified. He is also trying to make Americans feel better by shoving under the table that their culture is best and should be adopted by all Afghans. Believe me, I am not a Taliban sympathizer, but you must have a veil over your eyes to not see how this book used propaganda. By all means I would love more rights for afghan women but the intentions of this book are not so angelic. It all seems too convenient that a best selling book that degrades Afghanistan appears during the Afghan war. Americans will not see this because they are ignorant about the culture of Afghanistan and a lot of them already have negative views toward Islam. Farsiwan and Tajiks like Hosseini will like his book because they hate the Taliban and sympathize with American values. Also, for it being a fiction as some people say, I believe literature is a very influential thing. Just look at Karl Marx and the affect he had in the world because of his writing! Marxism is still prevalent today and has contributed to communism. Where do you think the “we are the 99%” comes from? Marxism of course! So by using literature, Hosseini and the American government can convince the public that the actions they take are justified. We don’t even know if the Taliban are really the reason the Americans are in Afghanistan anyways. Maybe the govt just wants us to think one thing so that they can do another. In that view these books were masterful at captivating people. Khaled Hosseini is a brilliant propaganda artist. So is the American government. I hope Khaled is happy with his million dollars. :(
December 4, 2013 at 3:04 PM
I agree with this review. I read this book a while back. I was interested in Afghan culture because my father has Pashtun ancestry. At first the book seemed good. Up to the point it got to Laila and the husband. Then the book made a spiral downwards. He uses western ideals and values to sway his audience. For example the character of Laila. She is a rebel and she has relations before marriage. Most Americans and Westerners would find this type of character appealing because they admire independence. He also relies on stereotypes, for example that all afghan men are bad. *cough* did anyone notice how the main antagonist was Pashtun? I definitely see how he has an anti-Pashtun thing going on in his books. He also portrays the Taliban as grotesque and gruesome. He is obviously trying to convince us that the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is justified and we need to help these poor helpless people (esp. women). However, he hardly talks about the good in Afghanistan. He never shows the white side or gray sides, he only shows black sides. By all means, don’t mistake me for a Taliban supporter. I would love there to be more women’s rights in Afghanistan. However I do not believe that Hosseini’s books were made because he just wants to show the bad in Afghanistan. If he wanted to do that then he should’ve written a documentary or something based on a true story. I don’t believe his actions were so angelic. It seems all too convenient that a bestselling book that bashes Afghanistan was made during the Afghan war IN AMERICA. Westerners will like this book because they are interested and ignorant of Afghan culture and because a lot of them hold beliefs against Islam. Most Farsiwan and Tajiks will like Hosseini’s books because they are against the Taliban and value Western ideals. Also, for those that believe his book should not be taken seriously because it is non-fiction; I believe that literature is a very powerful tool. Just look at Karl Marx! Marxism has influenced the world profoundly and still influences international relations. All just because he wrote it down on a piece of paper! Khaled Hosseini also has the power to influence thought through his books. By using this tool, the American Government and Hosseini are able to convince more people that the war is justified. How can you fight a war if your country does not agree with you? If the world does not agree with you? They need support, or else they would not be able to accomplish their own self interests. Hosseini is a brilliant propaganda artist. So is the American Government. I hope Hosseini is happy with his millions of dollars.
On the side note, the book itself is written well, but constructed poorly. First of all, it is too bleak. For there to be bad there must be good, I believe. There is no good in the entire story, except for one guy who teaches Quran. He’s obviously exaggerating the story to make a point.
Secondly, Hosseini clearly tells us that Afghan men are bad, but fails to tell us why. What am I saying here? Character development in this book is lacking. We never know the story behind the main antagonist, we just know he is an evil man. Also, Mariam lacks character. She just goes with the flow. She’s not really good at anything and just accepts everything that happens to her.
On the other hand, Laila has too much character. It’s like there is a holy light being shined on her all the time. She’s beautiful and supposedly smart (which I would argue against) and she’s loved by everyone and she’s independent. She is the shining beacon of American values. She even has blonde hair. How much more American can you get?
Personally, I felt that the story is also too shallow. All the men love Laila because she’s the hottest girl in town. Not for any other reason. Hosseini keeps reminding us how she has blonde hair and how she’s SO beautiful. I felt like telling Hosseini to shut up. He doesn’t say that people liked her because she was smart or independent, it was only because she was beautiful. What is Hosseini trying to say here? Afghan men are brainless? How shallow…
Also Laila’s relationship with her boyfriend is like a soap opera. They met and fell in love. Being stupid, they had a child out of wedlock. They parted. She married another man. They magically met again right after her husband died. 2 seconds later they’re married. It seems kind of ridiculous to me…
And why are the protagonists unreligious? Is Hosseini trying to tell us that Islam is the problem? That Afghans should adopt American values?
I don’t mean to sound like a hater, but it’s just that this book makes me so furious.
July 13, 2014 at 3:50 AM
I dont think husseini did any favour to Afghanis by portraying a bleak picture of his country .. He is actually making his western readers believe what they want to believe of a muslim society .
Yet we keep on decieving us by believing these stories .
BTW i saw this website yesterday and i am very happy abt the wonderful work ppl have dn over here . MASHALLAH
October 7, 2015 at 12:53 PM
Hossani seems to see the afghan society from western perspective. Obviously, he is one of the best story tellers but the way, he depicted afghan women, society, religious norms and culture are real.In both novels we have bastard characters.It shows that apparently afghan society has pious picture but in reality,there are some hidden ground breaking issue, which writers like Hossani has the ability to show it to world.women rights , education of women, barbaric forces and injustice are certain problems with the region that is why his words depict time and again the same mentioned problems.On another angle same are the demands of western people as well to educate them,to provide proper and legal rights to women and to demolish the brute forces then a gap would be created for justice and equality.
April 15, 2016 at 9:22 AM
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