A Thousand Splendid Suns is the second book by the Afghan American author Khaled Hosseini. The debut novel, The Kite Runner was very well received both by critics and readers and consequently became an international bestseller.
Like its predecessor, A Thousand Splendid Suns gives us a brutal but honest look into Afghanistan and its culture through a new set of eyes that succeeds in encapsulating just how much its people have suffered from the effects of war that has raged since the 1970s. The story follows the lives of two conflicting characters, Mariam and Laila.
An illegitimate child by birth, Mariam is not only prey to the injustices that such a status brings in a strict Muslim society but after suffering an isolated upbringing she is married off at the age of 15 to the embittered and violent Rasheed who is 30 years her senior. The book spans more than 30 years with the backdrop of war constantly present from the Soviet invasion of the 1980s to the Taliban regime of 10 years later. Mariam's path through the book is littered with sorrow that is so well depicted by Hosseini's imagery and eloquent language that at times I found it heartbreaking to read on.
Laila the latter of the main characters is an equally marvellous element of the book. Her ambitions of becoming a teacher one day are cruelly crushed not only by the arrival of the Taliban regime but also a personal tragedy that sees her end up in Mariam's household. The unexpected friendship that blossoms between the two in the midst of their oppression at the hands of the Taliban adds a remarkable depth to the book that is a triumph.
It's not hard to see why this book has enjoyed the Number One spot on the paperback chart for quite a while now. It has excelled in tackling the difficult subject matter of humanity in the face of evil without going into the realms of clichÃ©. It is a very well written, moving tale in which the author's passion and knowledge for Afghanistan, his home country, have made it nothing short of a spectacular read.