I have no clue how I managed to avoid this book for as long as I have. I do recall seeing it everywhere, especially when the film came out in 2007, but for some reason I didn’t even see the trailer for it.
It is Kahled Hosseini’s, an Afghan-American, first novel. We follow the life of a boy named Amir, living in the the wealthy district of Kabul. He is far from a brave, intelligent and that most protagonist seem to encompass. Instead most of those attributes could be given to his best friend, Hassan, who happens to be his households’ servant. Without a doubt the boys share a beautiful childhood together, far from perfect, but their strong friendship leads them on many adventures, including participating in the annual Kite Race. As all of these novels go, they are torn apart. But not because of an outside source as you would expect. Secrets are revealed and truths discovered.
Really emotionally powerful read. The main protagonist is not someone who I would praise as being worthy and commendable by any means. Especially near the beginning. His occasional teasing of Hassan is completely uncalled for and quite frankly just cruel. It really displays his cowardliness. For example, he refuses to teach him how to read because it allows him to possess an ability over his friend, making Hassan dependent on Amir to hear stories. And even then:
“My favourite part of reading to Hassan was when we came across a big word that he didn’t know. I’d tease him, expose his ignorance.” (30)
Nonetheless, his actions as an adult do redeem him in my opinion and life teaches him some pretty rough lessons as well. He is definitely a man who has made mistakes in the past that he wishes and tries to redeem.
I particularly enjoyed learning about the Afghan culture and history which is impossible to avoid in the novel and does play a major role in the plot. The repercussions of the invasion of the Russians have severe consequences on the main characters. Followed by the taking over of the major cities by the Taliban. Both transformed the lives of the characters. And transformed the landscape.
“A sadness came over me. Returning to Kabul was like running into an old, forgotten friend and seeing that life hadn’t been good to him, that he’d become homeless and destitute.” (258)
Culturally, it explains and details some of the customs of the Afghan people. Hosseini really tries to demonstrate not only how the people behave but also why it might be so different to western culture. I think this paragraph highlights precisely what the author wants to make clear about Afghan people and culture:
“The Hindi kid would soon learn what the British learned earlier in the century, and what the Russians would eventually learn by the late 1980s: that Afghans are an independent people. Afghans cherish custom but abhor rules.” (55)
Verdict: An absolute must read. Another book I just couldn’t put down. The characters are far from being ideal and flawless but that is exactly what I enjoyed about it. Learning about the culture and very, very brief history of Afghanistan was fascinating as well as Hosseini intertwines it into the plot. Stylistically, the author manages to really wrap me into the story.