A book review after long. Picked up a book after a long time and what a read!!!
“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
This is taken from a persian poet Saeb-e-Tabrizi’s poetry in the seventeenth century and this is what Khaled Hosseini bases his story on abut two women of Afghanistan and how they struggle through life.
I started the book last night and could not put it down until I had finished. Such was the engagement. In 6.5 hours flat, I sucked all that was there in this book to be offered, most of which was the pain of the two women protagonists. The book is so moving that more than once I found myself wiping my eyes and feeling a cringe in the heart at other times. What makes it all the more poignant is that I know although it is fiction I am reading, the truth that is out there is not a whole lot different from it, may be even worse.
Right from her childhood what Mariam has seen is crushing of her hopes, deprivation of the smallest possible pleasures she asked for, and abandonment. She is the embarrassment for her father, misery to her mother, a carrier of a boy and a cleaner to her husband. She is unwanted, despicable even and all that for no fault of hers except that she is an illegitimate child which she could not have controlled. Then, there is Laila, who has her majnoo of the adoloscent days but political turmoil sees to it that she is sucked back into the hell of Rasheed, bear him and live a life of nothing but hate, pain and misery. In the opression of Rasheed, both find companionship. Mariam finds a daughter which she never had and Laila, a mother. Her own mother had no time and place for her in her dreams of her sons returning home from Jihad.
The charcaters that the author has sketched are complete, human and pulling. But the biggest charcater that is there is Kabul and Afghanistan and the continual rape and torture of its lands sometimes by soviets, sometimes by Mujahideen, sometimes by taliban, sometimes by the US. The rulers and oppressors may change but what remains the same is the oppressed. Very neatly and subtly, the author draws a comparison between the Land that is Afghanistan and the women of Afghanistan ( the thousand spelndid suns behind her wall). Note how Kabul has been referred to as ‘her’ here. And the thousand splendid suns are the women who born, live and die behind the walls of the homes.
In the end, Mariam choses death far more readily than a life which she could only hope for but never even get close.
I was so moved, so touched.There are a few technical glitches in the novel, like Mariam dreams of women working in offices, tables and chairs there, which I feel are a little inconsistent given that she lives almost a solitary existence and noone tells her about those things. Then there is a situation where Tariq climbs a tree. Given that he has just one limb, it seems far fetched. But these minor quibbles aside, the books is as splendid as the thousand splendid suns.