A Thousand Splendid Suns – Book Review

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
-from a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi-

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a sweeping generational novel set in Afghanistan over the last thirty years from the Soviet invasion through the tortuous reign of the Taliban and the post-Taliban rebuilding years. Hosseini follows the lives of two women: Mariam and Laila. Mariam is a harami – an illegitimate child whose wealthy father casts her and her mother out of his home. When she is sold to the cruel Rasheed, a man who is easily 40 years her senior, Mariam’s life becomes one of pain, disappointment, abuse and endurance…just as her mother had predicted.

“…There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school. Look at me.”
“You should not speak like this to her, my child,” Mullah Faizullah said.
“Look at me.”
Mariam did.
“Only one skill. And it’s this: tahamul. Endure.”
-From A Thousand Splendid Suns, page 17-

Laila is born in Kabul, only doors away from where Mariam and Rasheed live. When war arrives in the city, Laila finds her world turned upside down and a twist of fate brings her and Mariam together.

Hosseini’s novel reveals the horrible effects of war, and the abuse and mistreatment of women under the Taliban. Heartbreaking in its scope, the novel touched my heart and had me choking back tears. As a woman born in the United States, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around the outrages done against women in other parts of the world. To imagine a life where one is not allowed outside without being accompanied by a man; cannot show her face in public; may be stoned to death for a perceived attraction to someone other than one’s husband; may not read, paint or even laugh without the fear of punishment; may be repeatedly beaten by one’s husband and have no recourse in the law…is almost beyond the scope of my imagination. And yet it has happened; is happening.

Hosseini’s novel is a must read – if only to remind us of the suffering of women in other countries, and the outrages of war. Beautifully written, fiercely powerful, and with a message about the redeeming quality of love and hope, A Thousand Splendid Suns is highly recommended.

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    • Anonymous on December 9, 2007 at 02:41

    I loved this when I read it!

    • Anonymous on December 9, 2007 at 07:15

    Wendy, great review! I knew you’d love this book. I really like the way you use quotes to illustrate points in your reviews. I try to find “great quotes” as I read, but am not nearly as good at it.

    • Anonymous on December 9, 2007 at 12:22

    Marg: I don’t think I’ve read a bad review on this one yet! And I have The Kite Runner in my stacks that I really want to read now!
    Laura: Thank you! When I write my reviews I go back and re-read the passages I marked while reading the book – and it helps me organize my review and decide what to write, rather than writing the review and then trying to find the passages that “support” it.

    • Anonymous on December 10, 2007 at 05:45

    I am so glad you loved this book! It is one of those books that stay with you and make you think, isn’t it? I will definitely read The Kite Runner soon as well.

    • Anonymous on December 10, 2007 at 10:32

    I agree, Myrthe – I have been thinking a lot about this book after turning the last page.

    • Anonymous on December 13, 2007 at 08:15

    I really enjoyed Hosseini’s second book, but I found it didn’t stick with me quite the same way that The Kite Runner did.
    Have you seen his article in Newsweek, I found it really interesting (I seem to be posting this everywhere today!)
    “Don’t Give up on Afghanistan”

    • Anonymous on December 13, 2007 at 10:23

    Alisia: I have The Kite Runner, but haven’t yet read it. But I will – definitely! Thank you for that link – there are times I feel this tremendous hopelessness about the future of some of these countries and their people – it is good for us to see beyond some of the horrors and have hope. I found it interesting that Hosseini felt ill-equipped to comment on Afghanistan’s future because he is “just a writer.” But, his insight is so important.

  1. Kudos to Hosseini for bringing to light the plight of countless women who live hidden by the burqa.

    • Wendy on February 19, 2009 at 07:48

    I agree – I can’t wait to see what else he will write.

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