A thousand splendid suns

by Khaled Hosseini

Hardcover, 2007





New York : Riverhead Books, 2007.


Mariam and Laila are born a generation apart but are are brought together by war and fate. Together they endure the dangers surrounding them and discover the power of both love and sacrifice.

Media reviews

Hosseini doesn’t seem entirely comfortable writing about the inner lives of women and often resorts to stock phrases. Yet Hosseini succeeds in carrying readers along because he understands the power of emotion as few other popular writers do.
2 more
Anyone whose heart strings were pulled by Khaled Hosseini's first, hugely successful novel, The Kite Runner, should be more than satisfied with this follow-up. Hosseini is skilled at telling a certain kind of story, in which events that may seem unbearable - violence, misery and abuse - are made readable.
Vi følger to afghanske kvinners liv gjennom tre tiår med krig og Talibans tyranni. Mariam er en harami ­– uekte datter av en rik forretningsmann. Laila en oppvakt og moderne jente fra Kabul. Gjennom skjebnens luner forenes deres veier, og de blir allierte i kamp mot en brutal ektemann og et krigersk, kvinneundertrykkende samfunn. Hosseini gir en brutal, men nyansert beskrivelse av den patriarkalske despotismen som gjør kvinner avhengige av fedre, ektemenn og sønner. Men tross all sorg og urettferdighet, vold og fattigdom, mord og henrettelser, løfter Hosseini og hans kvinnelige hovedpersoner leseren med seg videre og nekter oss å gi opp håpet. "Nok en kunstnerisk triumf og garantert bestselger fra denne fryktløse forfatteren." Kirkus Review "I tilfelle du skulle lure på om Khaled Hosseinis Tusen strålende soler er like god som Drageløperen er svaret: Nei. Den er bedre." Washington Post "En uimotståelig beretning." NRK Kulturnytt

User reviews

LibraryThing member msbaba
I’ve just spent the last two hour or so reading reviews here on LibraryThing and on Amazon for Khaled Hosseini’s second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. It’s been over a year since I read The Kite Runner. I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns a few days ago.

I didn’t set out to read so many reviews, but the more I read, the more a pattern started to emerge that I wanted to verify. This is what I discovered.

Most people, whether they rated the book three, four, or fivestars, said that they enjoyed the reading experience, and that they would recommend the book to other readers. They were spellbound by the characters and their harrowing tale of emotional and physical survival. It was an eye-opening experience for them to learn about the history, people, and culture of Afghanistan— country so often in the news.

But why the wide differences in ratings from people who all really liked the book and recommended it to others? And, why did so many readers start off their reviews by saying that they were disappointed?

Simply, it comes down to two very different types of readers. The lovers of modern literary fiction were disappointed. The lovers of well-written popular fiction were overjoyed.

The popular fiction lovers couldn’t help but love both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. These people loved the experience of being submerged in a compelling plot that took them on a journey to a world they knew little about. They were enthralled by the many fully believable, yet totally alien characters, and they were spellbound by the strange other-worldly story lines. These readers cared little about the craft behind the novels.

On the other hand, the modern literary fiction readers believed that they had discovered an exhilarating new author. These folks found the prose in Hosseini’s debut novel to be fresh, open, gentle, perceptive, and intimate. They were eagerly awaiting his new novel. When these readers finished Part One of the new novel, they were pleased and thought they were settling down for another wonderful literary treat. However, that feeling quickly disappeared as they started reading the following three parts. As the structure of the novel began to unfold, these readers could see that the author had taken on a huge literary task, one far bigger than he could handle. Many felt that Hosseini was trying to squeeze what amounted to an Afghani version of War and Peace into a brief 350-page tale. In an effort to move the plot along and cover 40 years of recent Afghani history in the remaining three parts, something had to be sacrificed. What the readers started seeing was that the important secondary characters lacked depth, backstory, and believability. They started to appear more like stereotypes. Naturally, these readers were sorely disappointed.

Finally, there were a smaller number of reviewers who found significant political dishonesty in the story. They viewed the author as having purposefully managed the story line to avoid anything that might show American intervention in Afghanistan in a poor light.

So what do I believe? For me, A Thousand Splendid Suns is easily a five-star winner. Yes, I saw the change in depth of characterization what occurred after Part One, and this disturbed me. Yes, it became obvious to me that the author was carefully crafting the tale to avoid anything that would displease a Western audience, and this disappointed me. So, why was it still so easy for me to rate this novel with five stars? It is because the story was so amazingly spellbinding! It physically and emotionally transported me to a different world. In the last three parts, it was easy for me to let my mind create plausible backstories to flesh out the stereotypes and make these secondary characters more believable, and I did not dwell on the fact that this was unnecessary in Part One. I enjoyed my active participation in the story; it brought me deeper inside the plot. And perhaps best of all, this book taught me a great deal about Afghanistan.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Mariam is product of an affair between a well-off Afghan businessman and a servant in his home (harami is the Afghan word for an illegitimate child). Mariam longs for her father's love but, while he visits her regularly, she is not permitted inside his home. She is educated privately by a village man named Mullah Faizullah. At the age of 15, she is married off to Rasheed, a widower several years her senior. She leaves her native town of Herat to live with him in Kabul.

A few years later, Laila is born to a family in Mariam's new neighborhood. Her constant companion is a neighborhood boy named Tariq and, as they mature, friendship turns into love. Tariq's family flees Kabul during the Soviet occupation and, under very sad circumstances, Laila becomes Rasheed's second wife. Mariam has been unable to bear children, and is therefore useless to Rasheed. Initially, Mariam wants nothing to do with Laila; however, in time they begin to bond in solidarity against the abusive Rasheed. They share chores, they care for the children Aziza and Zalmai, and they take daring action to improve their circumstances. A deep, maternal love develops between Maraim and Laila, leading to an incredible sacrifice at the book's climax.

The story takes place against the backdrop of unrest, war, and terror that characterized Afghanistan from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. Hosseini paints a vivid picture of events; every single character experienced death and loss. The author also exposes the terrible oppression of women in Afghan culture: their dependence on men , their inability to move about the city alone, and their value only as a reproductive engine. The novel is laden with surprises which often made me gasp out loud. Just as things would begin to look up for the main characters, misfortune would strike. And yet, the ending is one of hope and love. I found this book both eye-opening and compelling, and deserving of all its critical acclaim.
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LibraryThing member shweta81
That's the only book that ever made me cry. Yes, it did. This is a truly engrossing book, especially if you read it before reading "The Kite Runner". I read it in 3-4 readings, staying up late till 4 in the morning. It was so hard to put it down. Book is a story about 2 women, Mariam and her husband's second wife. It gives a very realistic picture of Afganistan, and what women had to go through under Taliban. The story is so simple that could be as well a true story, but yet so startling...… (more)
LibraryThing member jeniwren
A very moving story set in Afghanistan spanning the Soviet war , civil unrest and the rule of the Taliban post 9/11. The story is about two women, Marian and Laila who are brought together by fate and both taken as wives to a cruel and heartless man.
However after initial hostility to one another they become friends despite having to endure being trapped in a loveless marriage.

I found this story very depressing in regard to life for women who live in these oppressive regimes but insightful detailing thirty years of Afghan history of which I knew very little before coming to this book.
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LibraryThing member Lisa2013
I thought this book was even better than the author’s The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner got four stars from me as it was just under that four and a half star mark. This is just above that four and a half star mark; hence the five star rating. The Kite Runner was about the boys and men of Afghanistan, and this book is about the women and girls of Afghanistan. I was really dreading reading this because I anticipated this being even more disturbing. In some ways it was; in some ways it wasn’t. I was so engrossed in the story that even the most horrifying parts didn’t stop me from wanting to continue; I didn’t cry until the end, but I was emotionally involved all the way through.

I loved the line from the poem that gave this book its title. There were so many beautifully written passages. I started to make note of them (and even considered including a few of them in my review here) until I determined that there were too many and decided to just enjoy them as I read.

I really cared about and could empathize with Mariam and Laila and Aziza, and some of the male characters too, and I yearned for some things to happen and some did and fervently wished for some things not to happen and some didn’t.

The story is devastating and many brutalities are described, but there were some wonderfully joyous portions as well, and much that simply felt like real life in this particular time and place.

I love books that give me an inside look into people from different cultures, and this book did a fantastic job of making me feel as though I was right there. It’s always amazing to me to read these historical fiction books where the events take place during my lifetime, in years for which I have many of my own memories, and I can’t help but think of how others have lived, and I naturally begin to think even more about how others live now. In this book the events took place in the very recent past so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine these characters in the present. And, of course, just as I was finishing up this book Afghanistan was yet again on the television news. These fictional characters seemed so real to me that I found I was worrying about how four of them were getting through the current circumstances.
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LibraryThing member gcatron
The first book I read was A Thousand Splendid Suns, written by the skillful Khaled Husseini. Once again, Husseini’s writing grabbed my interest and nailed it to this novel. Like Kite Runner, it takes place in Afghanistan (mainly Kabul) and deals with the cultural customs of the Afghanistan people. Mariam, a bastard child, causes her mothers death and is forced married to a forty-year-old shoemaker. Laila, who loses her parents to a stray rocket, is taken in by Mariam and her husband. The book begins by telling about Mariam and Laila separately, but then twists their lives together in the second half.
Husseini has shown he likes to showcase the customs of the Middle East in these two books. In this book, he highlights the discrimination of woman and political unrest. An interesting fact he showed in his book was a list of rules set out by the Taliban in which all people of Kabul were forced to obey. Out of twenty-two rules, ten made forms of expression and alternate religion illegal, while twelve restrained women from common rights. For example, “You will stay in your homes at all times…You will not show your face…You will not laugh in public.” I found it interesting while at the same time disturbing.
One thing I did not like (in common with Kite Runner) was the beginning. The plot was slow with occasional depressive events. If I could, I would have skipped the beginning even though it contained key aspects to the book.
Another thing that caught my interest was his historical usage. He chronicled everything from the Soviet invasion to the Taliban’s reign to the seemingly understated terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. This incorporation of historical events was beneficial to the plot. This would be good for any historian.
If you liked Kite Runner, you would find this a close comparison. Anyone interested in political unrest, woman’s studies, or religious complexities, this is a good book for you.
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LibraryThing member Ice9Dragon
The experience of this story washing over me was unique. So alien to what I have experienced but at the same time so true and resonant. Lessons learned and hardly learned reflected in those lives and contrasted to my own, swirled in the truck and the miles flowed by. I don't know how true the description of the culture and times was but it felt more real than I have been exposed to in any other way. I believe we should celebrate the writer and his writing. I recommend this book most highly to everyone. 5 Stars...check it out.… (more)
LibraryThing member jolerie
As constant as the sun is shining in all its splendour, the lives of the woman in this book is as jaded with love and hope, mixed with disappointment and heartache. One cannot exist without the other. Together they form the very crux of both woman's lives - Mariam and Laila. Both woman were raised in a very different homes - one is a bastard by birth and the other a legitimate child in name but perhaps only a shadow in light of her two elder brothers. Although there is a generation spanning the lives of the two woman, both live and witness wars that ravage their country and home. Both have loved and lost. Through a series of twists and turns, both are unwillingly married to the same dominant and self-absorbed man. From strangers, to hesitant friends, the two woman eventually form a bond that is stronger than the very violence that threatens to tear their country and ultimately their own lives apart.

I do not live in a war torn country. I cannot not even imagine or fathom the depth of the fear and insecurity the woman of these countries endure on a daily basis, not only for their own lives but for the lives of each and every person they know and love. I am not married to a man who controls where I go, who I see, what I wear, or how I am to perceive myself as a human. I am not taught that my identity and my source of value is subservient to the man I am married to nor is conditioned by the my ability to reproduce. Yet through the lives of Mariam and Laila, I can live, I can see, and I can touch the very source of their struggles and triumphs. I cringe as they cower in fear and I rise in hope as they find the courage to live their lives not in the shadow of destruction wrecked not only by the war but by the man who they share in marriage. This book wasn't just a good read. This book was a GREAT read because for someone who is sheltered in the everyday blessings of a North American life, I have been able to measure and feel the very pulse of a world that I have never experienced and pray to God that I will never witness firsthand. A Thousand Splendid Suns stands out as a radiant beam of hope that there is beauty in the broken and that strength is not measured in whether we succeed or fail, but that we endure at all.
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LibraryThing member FicusFan
I read this book for a RL book group. I had already purchased it, but it was on Mt. TBR and didn't get read until now. I read The Kite Runner also for a RL book group, and didn't really enjoy it. I liked this book much better.

Like the first book it deals with the recent events in Afghanistan, from the 1970s to 2003. This book is set mostly in Afghanistan with a few chapters in Pakistan. The book focuses on 2 woman, of different ages and classes, though they both end up in the same place. It is a very sad read because the woman really have no voice or protection in their society, they have to rely on the men in their family. Even if the men are of goodwill everything is so precarious in a war zone and can change in an instant.

Mariam is poor, a bastard and outcast. Her rich father hides her away, and provides just subsistence level support. He won't be seen publicly with her, or let her meet her half-sisters and brothers. He has 3 wives and many legitimate children. She lives with her mother until she is 15, but when her mother commits suicide Mariam turns to her father for help. His 3 wives pressure him into marrying her off to a 40 year old widower they don't really know. He lives in Kabul, far from Herat, and is a shoemaker.

Mariam marries him and moves to Kabul. There she tries to make him happy, but she is unable to carry a pregnancy to term, having 7-8 miscarriages over the years. He resents her, and beats her. She is not allowed to go out without him, to be in the same room with his men friends even in their house and has to wear a full length burqa when he takes her out. Mariam becomes a dried up, broken, prisoner.

Laila is a beautiful young girl with loving parents living in Kabul. Her 2 older brothers leave to fight the Soviets and her mother goes into decline. Laila is not important to the mother, she is only a girl. Her mother becomes almost a patient that Laila has to take care of. Her father is a former teacher and is very progressive. He wants her to learn and become a modern woman.

Laila is fond of a boy down the street, Tariq. He was injured as a child by a Soviet land mine and has lost a leg. They are playmates as children, but their relationship changes as they grow. Laila lives a couple of doors down from Mariam.

In Kabul they live through the collapse of the King's government, the set up of a local communist government, the invasion of the Soviets, the fighting between the Soviets and the Mujahideen, the arrival of the war lords after the Soviets leave, the civil war between the war lords, the arrival of the Taliban, the removal of the Taliban.

Through it all the situation gets worse and worse for woman. They are not allowed to work, to go to school, they are not allowed to go to hospitals and they can't go anywhere without a male member of the family.

The treatment of women in society is based on religion. Oddly Rasheed, who is very strict with his women is not really religious. He is just a bully worried about his honor. He pretends to be publicly religious when the Taliban are in power. Mariam is honestly religious and she tries to follow the rules, not just because she is scared, but because she believes. Laila is a modern woman who is has no interest in religion or old fashioned rules.

Laila's world starts to unravel. Her 2 brothers are killed, Tariq and his family leave for Pakistan when the fighting in the streets and the danger gets too bad. He asks her to go with him as his wife, but she can't leave her father. Then a rocket destroys her house and kills her parents. She is injured and buried in rubble. Mariam's husband Rasheed sees an opportunity to end up with a young girl. He digs her out, takes her in, and makes Mariam take care of her. Mariam knows what he is up to and she resents Laila. Eventually Laila marries Rasheed and becomes his wife, with Mariam reduced to status of maid.

Eventually Laila and Mariam come to an understanding and even come to love and support each other. Laila has 2 children and Mariam loves them also. While the war outside the house goes on, there is also one inside. They try to please Rasheed, but he is angry and unpredictable. Their fortunes plummet during the fighting and money and food becomes tight. One of the children is a girl and Rasheed orders her to be given away to an orphanage. Mariam and Laila try to escape but are caught and returned to Rasheed.

Eventually the violence in the house comes to a head when an older Tariq returns looking for Laila. Tragedy ensues and the ending is bittersweet.

Throughout the story we see the disadvantage of the women and girls in their society, also how they endure and survive. At times they turn on each other, and sometimes its a man who helps them. Oddly its the Soviets who give them the best chance, because they required girls to be educated and women to be treated as citizens, not property.

We see the love the woman have for each other and their children, though sometimes it becomes a poisonous thing when it is stunted and turned in on itself.

The book ends on a positive note for the country in 2003, which I think does not match reality, at least in the news.

It was well written, it flowed quickly and I liked the characters and the story was interesting. It could also be called superficial, and doesn't really own the problems of women in a Muslim society. It just pushes the thought that peace will make it better. But that only means that the violence inside the home can go on uninterrupted by the violence outside.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Part One follows the story of Mariam, an Afghan child born out of wedlock to a wealthy businessman and his servant, Nana. It begins with Mariam as a five year old, full of adoration for her father although he keeps his illegitimate family hidden in the country, far away from the prying eyes of his three wives, nine legitimate children and nosy community. For ten years Mariam adores her father despite the fact he only visits her on Thursdays and regales her with stories of riches she will never see. At fifteen Mariam has finally had enough and travels to the city to visit her father, only to be banished once again - this to a prearranged marriage to a merchant thirty years her senior.

Part Two follows the story of another girl, fifteen years younger than Mariam. Laila is nine years old and living with her parents in the same Afghan city as Mariam. She has a much different upbringing than Mariam, though. Laila's formal education is fully supported by her parents and she is allowed to socialize with children her own age. She has one special attachment, a boy named Tariq. Over the course of five years Laila's relationship with Tariq blossoms into a teenage romance.

Part Three brings Mariam and Laila together. The same man who marries Mariam marries Laila. It is the abuse they both suffer at the hands of their husband that brings them together as friends. The bond they share takes them to a startling and devastating conclusion.
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LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
This novel broke my heart over and over and left me exhausted. Hosseini has a voice and a love for Afghanistan that draws you into a world of hearbreaking injustice and heartbreaking beauty. And you follow willingly because the people are people you need to get to know.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" never seems contrived; never over sells; and doesn't steer you into a 'happily ever after' ending. But it takes you to a totally satisfying and 'real' stopping point where you know that these lives continue, perhaps in happiness, perhaps not. But, for me, these people are now real; are out there living in the Afghanistan they love, with all the dangers and beauties that go with it.

This unabridged audio production is excellent, with Atossa Leoni's voice perfectly matched to the story.
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LibraryThing member agrabfelder
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a “sister novel” to the Kite Runner, both written by Khaled Hosseini. It deals with women and their lives in Afghanistan and it also outlines some of the political history of Afghanistan and how different parties controlled it up to the US invasion after 9/11.
The story begins with a young girl, Mariam who is not in a normal situation. She is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy merchant and his housekeeper in a village of Heart. Since of course the housekeeper and her illegitimate child is a disgrace to the rich merchant, he builds a small shack away from the village and that is where Mariam and her mother live for about sixteen years. Mariam is a very unloved child. Her mother commits suicide and the merchant is forced to marry Mariam off. She is married off to a man from Kabul, Rasheed, who is about forty years old, and she sixteen. She is wildly mistreated and after Rasheed discovers that Mariam is not suitable or able for childbirth, she is treated even worse. Although, the book gives fair examples of women who are treated fine and equal. The book also shows how with the change of power, from communist to monarchy to the Taliban, womens’ rights declined. Another story runs along with Mariam’s. Lalia a girl who is about 20 years younger than Mariam lives near her. Lalia lives a good life. She has many friends, she goes to school, and her parents love her. She has a male friend named Traiq. When they are both about 18, Traiq and his parents plan to move to Pakistan to escape the violence of Afghanistan. Lalia is sad, but has hope that maybe she will be able to go too. Lalia and Traiq have always been attracted to each other end up having sex before Traiq leaves. Lalia eventually convinces her parents to move to Pakistan away from Afghanistan, but a stray rocket from the guerrilla fighting hits her house and kills her parents. Much more follows…
This book started off pretty slow but got very interesting as the author wove the story together. One started to feel like they knew the characters and was wondering how their lives would turn out. I learned a lot about how women had so much more freedom during the communist times of the USSR than afterwards and the Taliban. After reading the book I felt like the Islamic culture allows for the brutal treatment of women but there are still men who treated their wives nicely. Mariam and Lalia just weren’t luck to land with Rasheeed. I really liked this book and would recommended it to any mature reader, male or female.
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LibraryThing member xmaystarx
I'm glad I took the time to read this book as it opened my eyes to the way of life for many people in the middle east. On the other hand, I can describe this book as a continuous down hill ride with a few speed bumps of hope and light. Every time I thought the worst possible thing had happened something else just as bad did. Every time I thought something good would finally come for these women it ended up being transitory. While depressing and aggravating at times the development of the relationship between the two women was a highlight. The scenes of Laila's childhood made me smile and added hope. This is a story of struggle and sacrifice to the utmost.… (more)
LibraryThing member annehoekman
I just finished reading this book, though I must admit that I put off finishing for a couple of weeks. It wasn't that I didn't like the book--I thought it was an excellent story and very well written--it was just that I was so deep into the story that I couldn't emotionally take any more of it. Whenever I put the book down, I felt haunted by the characters and what was happening to them. I think because this one (unlike The Kite Runner) was about women, I felt much more connected to the characters. The story is so anchored in the political history of Afghanistan and portrays such a brutal household and country for women to live in, that even though this is fiction, I felt so sad that people live like this somewhere in the world. I read an interview with the author in which he said, "...I do hope that in some ways this novel gives people a window into Afghanistan, especially into the difficult existence of Afghan women over the last 30 years. Maybe this novel will give some identity to the nameless, faceless women in burqa walking down the street, so that a reader will now sense that these are real people who have dreams and hopes and disappointments. Just like everybody else." He was certainly successful at this, and (without giving anything away), successful in showing where redemption can be found. Excellent book.… (more)
LibraryThing member marient
A story of the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years-from the Soviet invasion to reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding-that puts the violence, fear, hope, faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives-the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness-are inextricable from the history playing out around them.… (more)
LibraryThing member ahef1963
Hosseini's second novel of Afghanistan tells the story of two women: Mariam and Laila, beginning with their very different childhoods in disparate parts of the country, and weaving their stories together with expertise. It is a book that probes the unfair way that women are treated by society, by men, by women. Often shocking and raw, the book makes the statement that things need to change, that women need to band together against those who would have them downtrodden.

I liked the book very much, and its message even more. It was an excellent story that kept me reading for hours, and I look forward to Hosseini's next book, waiting for me on my bookshelves.
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LibraryThing member wishanem
The author's primary purpose in this novel, as far as I can tell, was to engender sympathy for the plight of innocent Afghans. The books depicts common Afghans as Sisyphus-like prisoners, suffering for generations under a wide variety of evils. I was not entertained, but this novel certainly made me feel bad for Afghans.

Bleak, depressing, and personal, the book still provides a vivid and occasionally (momentarily) joyful story. Events are mostly the miserable conditions of some women under an oppressive regime and the equally oppressive yoke of domestic abuse. Some of the book's villains are slightly humanized, but for the most part they are unreservedly evil caricatures. Even a mildly happy ending is marred with implications of future misery for the book's few wounded survivors.

I can't imagine recommending this book to anyone.
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LibraryThing member ddelmoni
I'll admit I expected a lot from this book. Having finished it, I'm fence sitting not knowing which way to lean.

It clearly lacks the character development and depth of story that it's "sister" book, The Kite Runner, has. Then again the life of ordinary women in Afganistan, in the past 30 years, was bleak, if not horrowing, for far too many. Perhaps Hosseini has simply pointed that out here.

Part of me feels A Thousand Splendid Suns is simply a less than stellar, war torn soap opera set in another culture. Another part of me feels guilty for even thinking that about this book. I suppose the short answer is, I'm disappointed on a number of levels. Our upcoming book club discussion, however, should be fascinating!
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LibraryThing member dele2451
I thought Hosseini's earlier work, "The Kite Runner", would be difficult to top, but "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is indeed even better. The strength and bravery of the two women he portrays testify to the amazing resiliency of the human spirit -- even in the face of horrific violence and cruelty. Finding the beauty in war is difficult, but this author has done it masterfully.… (more)
LibraryThing member litaddictedbrit
I was bought this book by my dad who had read it and recommended it so highly that he thought I should have my own copy. I read ‘The Kite Runner’ while I was at university a couple of years ago and remembered loving it so I was looking forward to reading it.

What I loved about this book, as I did its predecessor, is that it spanned the Mariam’s whole life. She starts off living with her mother in what most westerners would perceive as abject poverty and is denied an education both because of her gender and her social standing. She is the product of her mother’s very short-lived affair with a wealthy business man and, despite the fact that he denies her the opportunity to be legitimate, adores him completely. The relationship is doomed and Mariam eventually ends up marrying the barbaric Rasheed.

This in itself seems oppressive and I really sympathised for Mariam but her strength of character also made me admire her. Leila is similar - her family is torn up by her brothers’ participation in the Afghan army. As part of her story, there is a brief history of the politics of Afghanistan which, considering the country’s presence in western media, I found really interesting. Most memorable is how the Taliban developed and became powerful, not to mention the nuances of its control. I love how the novel is peppered with local dialect as the characters seem truly of that culture, which makes their perception of their situation more realistic - or that could just be me.

For all the praise, this book should be read with a warning that it can be really dark. I personally think that this is because the subject matter is dark itself but I would understand if some found it too much. Through all of it, however, there is a note of hope and of genuine love which, uniquely, is not romantic love - and all the more powerful for it.

Overall: In my view, this book is an absolute must-read of modern literature. Yes, it can be brutal and it is by no means an easy read but it gives an incredible insight into the suffering of women in Afghanistan over time and is perhaps the most heart-rending story of maternal love I have ever read.
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LibraryThing member catherinestead
This is an amazing book, and I don't really know where to begin commenting on it. The evocation of the places the places in which is it set - both geographic and cultural - is stunning: beautiful, detailed, empathetic and vivid. The characters are clearly drawn, like a word-photograph of both appearance and personality.

The book is often disturbing and uncomfortable: Mariam's unhappy childhood; the fear and uncertainty of living through war; the casual inflicting and acceptable of violence by the authorities - and, worse, in the home; the psychological brutalisation of a family and of a people; the knowledge that 'to endure' is all that can be done.

The developing relationship between Mariam and Leila is remarkable: the initial conflict (showing the simultaneously startling and inevitable extent to which Mariam has accepted her abusive marriage as normal and to be accepted and endured), the first tentative beginnings of friendship, to a strange blend of sisterhood and maternal love.

The return of Tariq could feel so trite, and yet you feel as you read it that it is just so typical of Rasheed to have lied to and manipulated Leila in this way. There is also an awareness of the possibility for disaster in his return: you can see the final crisis coming with the same sense of anticipatory dread you feel when you lose control of a car, and know that a painful and dramatic impact is both imminent and inevitable. The sense of reality and horror conveyed to the reader as the final conflict is played out is astonishing. Tariq, of course, is also a damaged man - no longer the bright-eyed youth we knew in the earlier chapters - and there is little joy in reconciliation amidst the tragedy of Mariam's fate.

In a way, though, there is, amidst the horror, something of a positive ending to Mariam's story: in a life which has been so much one of 'endurance', as her mother foretold, she does not endure but instead chooses her fate. There seems to be a kind of liberation in this: she is not running, nor enduring, but facing a destiny she has chosen, and doing so with courage and out of love.

There is no happy ending - and yet there is. No twee 'happily ever after' - which would not have done justice to the suffering, the survival instincts, the hurt or the hope of the characters, or indeed the reality of the country - but positive, hopeful and powerful. The rebuilding of shattered lives, and the promise of better times ahead.
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LibraryThing member yosbooks
A story of love, friendship and hope set amidst war. An intriguing and at times confronting book that gives insight into a woman's life in Afghanistan and the impact of the Taliban. Loved the narrator Atossa Leoni.
LibraryThing member jasmyn9
The story of Mariam and Laila. Two Afghan women raised in vastly different ways that find themselves living in the same household with the same abusive (to western standards) husband. We see both their histories and understand their point of view and personalities as they meet and get to watch them grow from bitter rivals, to the closest of sisters. Covering a period of Aghan history about 50 or 60 years, we see the change of regimes over and over and how life was constantly changing for the people.

I'm not even sure where to start with this one. It was amazing on so many different levels. The characters were whispering in my ear their stories as I read . The country of Afghanistan came alive on the pages. I wanted to cry and celebrate and hope with the two women every step of the way.

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LibraryThing member firebird013
Well written, but grueling read. A sad tale of modern Afghanistan with its religious and patriarchal excesses. The Kite Runner had moments of lightness. There are few in this book - but then that is probably realistic.
LibraryThing member lkernagh
What an amazing novel and so difficult to pin down my thoughts in a short review. Words such as "liked" "enjoyed" are not fitting words to describe this reading experience. "Spellbinding" and "eye-opening" would seem more appropriate. Set against the backdrop of 30 years of turbulent Afghanistan history (from the early 1970's to the early 2000's), Hosseini vividly portrays those years of unrest, war, oppression and terror through the voices of Mariam and Laila. Every single character experience death and loss of so me kind. One would think that this would make for a very depressing read, and yet, Hosseini manages to intermingle all that is terrible and ugly with a shimmer of love and a ray beam of light.

For me, this book is as important for its history lesson as it is in providing a vivid portrayal of Afghan life and terrible oppression of women in Afghan culture. The pain and suffering portrayed is palpable... I lost count of the number of times I found myself flinching along side the characters, and crying with them. Hosseini is truly a gifted storyteller, grabbing the reader's attention with clear, unfussy language. He dazzles the reader with his story, not the words used to convey the story. Through this straightforward presentation, Hossieni provides readers with a fascinating glimpse of daily life in Afghanistan of the time period. Another well written, thought provoking read for me.
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