Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

This was a book recommended and borrowed from a colleague, which meant I didn’t really choose it for myself and I didn’t have a clue what to expect, particularly as the blurb on the reverse was pretty general too.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

To summarise A Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Hosseini) is a story about the lives of two Afghan women, very different in character but with many shared sufferings, and the story of their developing friendship during their hardships. It’s also essentially the political story of Afghanistan between the seventies and the early noughties and the changing attitudes towards women, from a time when many women were professionals working in the city of Kabul, to the strict and more brutal regime under the Taliban.

There are two main things to say about this book:

  1. It a very well written book and one that opened my eyes
  2. BUT I didn’t enjoy reading it at all!

The characters of Mariam and Laila were very well written – I found it very believable how different their personalities were as a result of their very different upbringings and childhood experiences, and I thought everything they did throughout the book was very true to character. The story was very well written, and in terms of the political side of it I thought it was an interesting read.

But I have to say that I found it a very hard book to read. Firstly because Mariam was such a difficult character to understand or get on board with – very timid, not strong willed, no social skills, not attractive, generally downtrodden and quite a depressing heroine for a book. When Laila was introduced the book became slightly more enjoyable to read because she had far more about her, but in general I found it really hard to read about the horrible experiences these two women endured.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book or not. It’s clearly a very good book, and one that opens your eyes and makes you think – but for me, not enjoyable! I’d say it really depends on the kind of book you like to read. This is not a particularly heart-warming one!

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