A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns’, a heart wrenching novel written by Khaled Hosseini, focuses on mothers and daughters, and the strong ties of friendship between women. The story starts off with a slow pace, but picks up momentum and has emotional magnetism as it slowly unfolds.


Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul and moved to the United States of America in 1980. He has previously written ‘The Kite Runner’ and like in his earlier book, he attempts to showcase Afghanistan’s violent history under the Taliban rule and its repercussions on its people. Though the book features some banal scenes, it also shows some genuine heart warming moments which keep the interest of the readers in the story intact.


Khaled Hosseini creates his characters beautifully. He vividly describes them and fills the readers with each and every detail concerning them. His characters have the simplicity and emotions which make it easier for the readers to identify with them. To arouse the sympathy for his characters is a sleight of hand for Mr.Hosseini. The characters find themselves in quagmire- like situations; illegitimacy, unhappy families, abusive husbands, government’s oppression, war and orthodox cultural ties.


In this novel, Hosseini attempts to acquaint his readers with the plight of the women in Afghanistan, who endure hardships of life and suffer in the hands of men. Each passing day is an ordeal for these women. The story is about Mariam- the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man, and when her mother commits suicide, she is married off to a man much older than her, Rasheed, by her father, who is ashamed of her existence.


Rasheed is another brute of a man who treats Mariam with unjustifiable contempt. Mariam is subjected to ridicule, insults, his ill tempered nature, and even physical abuse. Rasheed’s lack of respect for Mariam is again displayed when he marries Laila, a war victim and much younger to both Rasheed and Mariam. His reason for being a polygamist is Mariam’s inability to bear him a child.


Laila has rather had a liberal upbringing, whose intellectual father encouraged her to study and sent her to school. Once her house is burnt down by a rocket, taking the lives of her parents, she is forced to get married to Rasheed. At first, Mariam treats Laila as her enemy for stealing her husband, but when Laila’s daughter, Aziza, is born, a friendship slowly develops between the two women. Mariam is like a second mother to Aziza. Both the women try to protect each other from Rasheed’s insults and physical abuses. Soon, they become best friends.


The way Mr. Hosseini has conjured up their daily routine is definitely worth applause. He takes us inside their household, on the streets of Kabul and in the markets, so that we have a very clear picture of daily life of Kabul, both before the war and during the reign of the Taliban. He shows us the hospitals where women are turned away as men and women are supposed to be in different hospitals. The ‘women’ hospital falls short of doctors and attendants, and the mayhem that is caused in that hospital shocks readers beyond their imagination.


In the final analysis, it is the story telling skills of Mr. Hosseini and such detailed distinction of Afghanistan- a country known to most of us only through war and terrorism accounts on news channels- that makes this novel so moving and provocative. His eye for detail works wonder for the book and the few flaws in the story are well covered by his imagination and his skills. The emotional outburst at many places seems to be directly taken off from Hindi soaps, but it is a good piece of fiction, especially for the audience who do not have even the slightest idea about life in Afghanistan.


Shikha Tandon


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