Blimey. That was a bit emotional. Blooming marvellous though.
Even though I’ve been hearing wonderful things about Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for years, I was a bit nervous about reading it. This is mainly because of everyone’s comments about how moving they found the story, talking about how it stayed with you long after finishing. Now I am a bit of a lightweight with this kind of thing. I cried at the Harry Potter books and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I also couldn’t make it more than an hour into the film The Pianist, then couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen for weeks. So I was worried that The Kite Runner would just shake me up too much.
I needn’t have worried. Yes, this is an emotional book which describes some awful events, but it is so beautifully written. Khaled Hosseini deals with the terrible events in Afghanistan over the past 30 years with so much respect that you can’t help but be drawn in by his story, rather than repulsed by the violence.
I really cannot appreciate gratuitous violence and misery in people’s writing, be it for books, film or TV. While we cannot ignore that awful things do happen in the world, I see no point in reporting them for their shock value alone. Some kind of conclusion should be drawn, or point made.
Hosseini includes enough shock to create an image of Afghanistan at war, and later under Taliban rule, while keeping a very strong novel. Violence enhances what he is trying to say, rather than being all he is saying.
And a lot was said. I honestly had no idea. I had no idea what really happened in Afghanistan. I belong to a generation who has grown up associating the country with war, Muslim extremism, the Taliban, terrorism and destruction, without ever really understanding why. In school I learned about life in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and even Thatcher’s Britain, but nobody ever taught us what was going on in the modern day world and why.
While this book is by no means a political history lesson, I found it fascinating to read, not only about everyday life under the Taliban, but also about peaceful Afghanistan. I have no doubt that there were many problems – the main character is told when he returns in the midst of the poverty and destruction that Afghanistan was always like this, he had just been too priveliged to notice – but it was once a country like any other. It was not always the land of rubble and bombs. If nothing else, this book has inspired me to find out what happened to that country, rather than being intimidated by seemingly confusing Middle Eastern politics.
So I’m now on the lookout for a good book to explain it to me – any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
There was so much I loved about this book. The setting and politics were, sadly, entirely realistic and believable, but Amir’s personal story was just poetic and coincidental enough to excite the former English student in me – themes and motifs abound.
I loved the fact that, while pure good and pure evil are certainly embodied in the characters of Hassan and Assef, the vast majority of characters lie somewhere in the middle, in that grey area that most of us spend our whole lives flitting around. The goodies and baddies are not always clear.
I loved that the USA was hardly brought into the book from a political point of view. Since the second half of the book takes place in the summer of 2001, while reading this I was on tenterhooks wondering what the September 11th attacks would bring. But this was not the point. America is not considered a villian.
On a slight side note, this did set me off wondering when we became so suspicious of the US government’s intentions. And coincidentally (or maybe not so much, given that it’s the anniverary of the 9/11 attacks) I came across this article on the Guardian website (“Widespread distrust of US extends beyond Middle East”). But that’s a different topic.
I could say so much more about this book, but I won’t – there’s a lot of hype about it already, and you should read and form your own opinions. It is an incredibly touching story and somehow manages to be not entirely pessimistic. I loved it and now can’t wait to get my hands on A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini’s other bestseller.