A Thousand Splendid Suns was a book group book, which I was not so sure about reading as I had found The Kite Runner to be too involving a read a couple of years ago. It is just as devastating a read, looking at two women’s lives as regimes change in Afghanistan, and how they build relationships though the horror.
The book is very well written drawing me well into Afghanistan, and the lives of the two women. There are numerous elegant pieces of imagery, where the scene described feels completely real, and it is hard to remember that English is Hosseini’s third language as he uses it so beautifully.
The book shows both the way people can inflict cruelty and hardship on each other, along with how the strongest bonds of love can act between those undergoing hardship. I did appreciate how all hardship was inflicted on the characters by each other and those in wider society, rather than unfortunate chance. This made the suffering much worse, as it reflected the worst in human nature.
Whilst the story in the book is fictional, the legal institutions and social attitudes are real, and it illustrates life under the Taliban. Reading this I was glad to live in the West, where women have the right to vote, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. But more than these freedoms, what is clearly missing from the women’s lives is the protection of the state from abuse, and the right to not be treated as a man’s property. Hosseini has effectively drawn attention to the damage that invading countries have inflected on the fabric of Afghan society, destabilising it over and over again.