One could not count the moons that shimmered on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls
A thousand splendid suns is a book by Khaled Hosseini. It’s incredibly famous and that quote above from some Persian poem was made famous because of the book.
A thousand splendid suns follows the story of 2 women – Miriam and Laila. Both of them are from entirely different backgrounds but they meet and their lives intertwine in the most unexpected of ways. Of course, this is just the foreground, the topping to the base that the author is trying to convey.
Both women get caught up in the afghan revolution that affects all of the country and a large part of Kabul as well. The author explores in vivid detail the power shifts that Afghanistan went through – the soviets supporting the communists, the mujahideen overthrowing the communists, the mujahideen fighting among themselves, the coming of the Taliban and the overthrow of the Taliban.
I have always been interested in the kind of politics that went on in that region. It is intriguing that a country with such less diversity (I mean they all follow islam) can have so many power shifts. After reading this book, I realised I was too much of a simpleton.
Each of these parties and power houses had their own motives. The mujahideen didn’t want socialism. The Taliban wanted to establish order but they were pro wahabbis who wanted to establish a pure Islamic state. They burned down posters, books and any other forms of creativity in favour of reading the Koran and saying prayers. Their coming into power was welcomed since they were a change from the ever fighting mujahideens but their rule was one of absolute terror. They were overthrown by the present government which is still under the rule of president Hamid Karzai.
The book is profound in that, although the author follows only one family, he projects all the pros and cons of the change in rule. He also shows how brutal the Taliban rule was on the afghan women.
Those are the good points. There are some cons to the book as well. The antagonist (if such a term can be applied to any character in this particular book) is an afghan named Rasheed. I am not into character sketches so much but I must say – this was a very badly designed character. He is projected as a conceited and shortsighted afghan from the villages. But there is absolutely no reason given for his character, his behaviour, his attitude towards women in general etc. Only way you can surmise all these details is because there is some mention in a small paragraph about his upbringing in the mountains. Also, the events in the book with respect to the characters (not the events of the power struggles) is a bit too outrageous. I mean .. tricking a woman into marriage and all that – it’s a little overboard if you ask me. I thought all this happened only in those horrible soaps in Hindi and Tamil channels.
Overall, the book is worth the read. Alternating between a slow and fast story line and having a happy ending, it’s a very formula based novel, in my opinion. In my mind, there is no doubt that the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan have been portrayed in a brutally vivid manner. It is enlightening to read the book when you have no clue what went on in that region during the Cold War when you were just a child.
Consensus: 3.5/5 (I’m stingy and have a very snobbish outlook on what a good book is, so there :P)
Must read. If you are as intrigued by the politics in that region as I am, this will be a brilliant read 🙂