Ahoy! Well it feels like weeks since I last posted and even longer since I last finished a book. Perhaps I over did myself last month in reading 6 books in 30 days. But here’s something to rejoice in, I have finally finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini after a very lazy Sunday. This is a novel that I saw everywhere for a time shoulder to shoulder with the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. It has been one of those on my ‘to read’ list for a very long time.
I finally bit the bullet a while ago and read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini and thoroughly enjoyed it and have become very interested in the history of Afghanistan. Both of these novels paint Afghanistan in the way you would expect given the political turmoils that have ripped the country to shreds over the last fifty years. But Hosseini does something brilliant with his novels, war is the backdrop woven into a rich tapestry, foregrounded are of the treatment of minorities, women, and arbitrary nature of persistent violence. I have vivid recollections of Splendid Suns and I dare say I won’t forget Kite Runner in a hurry either.
The Kite Runner is Amir’s story, his childhood in an Afghanistan that sees the Soviet occupation and then his escape to America and eventual, brief, return to the Middle East. This is much more than straightforward narrative. Amir is a complex character, he is a bit of a coward in childhood and finds his Hazara best friend, Hassan, pulling him out of trouble most of the time. Amir also struggles with insecurities and is a bookish character who discovers the love of writing.
Hassan, although lower in social standing than Amir and technically a servant to the house, is a sweet and humble character. Amir and Hassan are thick as thieves though the majority of their childhood. Until, the biggest event of their young lives alters their relationship.
The neighbourhood’s Kite Fighting tournament, is Amir’s certain way to win the affections of his aloof father. With Hassan helping him and as his Kite Runner (retrieving fallen kites once they have fallen from the sky), the pair achieve victory. But during the abandon of victory whilst Hassan is on his way collecting the final fallen kite (the most coveted of prizes) something terrible happens to him at the hands of the local thugs, and Amir is unfortunate enough to witness it. Amir spends months unable to meet Hassan’s eye and then the majority of his life grief and guilt stricken over not stepping into defend his friend.
This is one of those narratives that winds and rolls and reflects life in it’s unfortunate circumstances. It’s messy, people are complicated, Amir has a really difficult journey and in places this is a very sad novel. It’s a novel of conflict and struggle and not just in the sense that the back drop is a country at war with itself and everyone else. It was so dismal in places it took me quite a while to get through I think. However the last third of it was a breeze, and I was quite determined and hopeful for Amir.
I have failed to mention that Hosseini’s writing is again, wonderful. It’s flawlessly engaging and vivid. This novel fails to completely tie everything up neatly, but it does thankfully end on a hopeful note after dealing with some very harsh realities. Overall I did enjoy this novel, but not as much as A Thousand Splendid Suns.