A Thousand Splendid Suns: Khaled Hosseini.
367 Pages. Rs 520.
My very own Star Rating ***
Four years after debuting with his stupendous best-seller, ‘The Kite Runner’, Khaled Hosseini unfurls his latest; a story once again set in Afghanistan and beautifully titled ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns.’
‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ begins with 15 year old, illegitimate Mariam, who lives with her bitter, vitriolic – tongued mother on the outskirts of the village Herat. Mariam’s only consolations for her desolate life are the weekly visits by her much-married father. Visits that are more guilt-ridden chores, than those spurred by fatherly love. Visits, which fill Mariam’s mother with resentment, at the budding proximity and love between father and daughter, and Mariam with hope of a better, more respectable, future.
Her mother’s unexpected suicide renders Mariam homeless, and hopeless. On a suggestion by one of his wives, her father marries her off to sly, and troubled by his own past, Rasheed, a widower 30 years her senior, and Mariam moves to Kabul with him. Like everything else in her life her womb too lets her down, with one miscarriage following the other and causing Rasheed, who hungers for a son, to infuse this odd marriage with abuse, both mental and physical.
Two decades later, in the war-torn climate of Kabul, 15 year old Laila is blossoming in the first flush of young love when sudden tragedy strikes, forcing her to become part of her neighbors, Mariam and Rasheeds, miserable household. Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures and Laila agrees to the marriage proposal put forward by, the now nearing 70 years old, Rasheed immediately. Much to Mariam’s chagrin.
As Afghanistan is passed off from one brutal international exploitation to the other, from the mistreatment of Soviet occupation to the persistent violence of the Mujahidin and finally to the religious subjugations of the Taliban, the lives of the women Mariam and Laila are passed off from similar never-ending tortures and life seems like an endless struggle against starvation, cruelty, fear and of being trapped in marriage to the same abusive man.
And when circumstances seem impossibly bleak, a light at the end of the tunnel appears in the form of love. A love that instills in the women a new strength, and the will to hope for a new future. And it is this love, and hope, that helps them overcome every impossibly overwhelming obstacle with courage that even they were unacquainted with.
The beautiful title of the book comes from the lines of a poem composed about Kabul by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet;
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
Relationships and emotions are Khaled Hosseini’s forte and these are the dominant essences of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’.
Through his characters, Hosseini explores the fragility and the tenacity of relationships. Of relationships in every form. He illustrates the hope of the success and the dread of failure, which each relationship comes wrapped in. He skillfully exemplifies emotions ruling lives, and emotions ruining it.
Khaled Hosseini’s simple, serene and subtle writing brings to life his much-loved Afghanistan and the reader witnesses the escalating crumbling of the country through his words. His words even momentarily bring alive the famed Bamiyan Buddhas which were destroyed by the Taliban, now lost forever.
‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is about love, hope and the unexpected discovery of inner strength. And above all it is the touching tale of a beautiful bond between two women who, though unrelated by blood, are intimately related by circumstances.
My very own rating chart;
*Use it as a doorstop.
**Read when you have nothing better to do.
***You will like it if you like this particular genre of writing.
*****What! You haven’t read it YET !