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The Kite Runner – Book Review

Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words. Mine was Baba. His was Amir. My name. Looking back on it now, I think the foundations for what happened in the winters of 1975 – and all that followed – was already laid in those first words. -From The Kite Runner, page 11-

The Kite Runner is the story of two boys – Hassan a Shi’a, Amir a Sunni; one from wealth, the other a servant – who grow up in Afganistan the best of friends, until one fateful day when Amir is twelve in the winter of 1975. What Amir witnesses changes the boys’ friendship forever, and sets events in motion which will have lifelong consequences.

Khaled Hosseini begins his novel in Afganistan, then takes the reader across the ocean to San Francisco where Amir and his father begin a new life as immigrants. A telephone call one day from his father’s old friend summons Amir back to an Afganistan which has changed – a place where Taliban soldiers patrol, where people are hung in the street or stoned to death during an intermission at a soccer game, and where children are no longer children. It is here where Amir must face his demons and where lies, betrayal and secrets will be uncovered.

This is a novel which explores many themes: family loyalty, the rigidity of religious division, the cruel effects of war, and the power of love and redemption. Hosseini’s writing is simple and powerful; a no frills, spare style which stuns. Readers should be warned – there are graphic scenes which involve child rape and molestation. The violence in the book is painful to read…and heartbreaking.

Earlier this year I read Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns (reviewed here), and so comparisons between the two novels was inevitable.  I thought Hosseini’s writing matured from the first book to the second, and A Thousand Splendid Suns affected me more strongly on many levels. Flaws with The Kite Runner include some plot twists which bordered on the unbelievable, and so parts of the book felt contrived to me.

Despite this, The Kite Runner is a impressive first novel which reveals the horror of what has happened, and continues to happen in Afganistan.  The Kite Runner has been banned by the Afghan government because of a rape scene of a young boy and the ethnic tensions that the film highlights. It has faced challenges and bans in the United States as well.

This is a book which leaves a lasting impression. Highly recommended.

28 Comments

  1. June 14, 2008    

    I am reading this book right now!!! It is so amazing and very hard to put down! I’ll have to comment again after I have finished it.

  2. June 14, 2008    

    How interesting to have had the benefit of reading A Thousand Splendid Suns before The Kite Runner. Both books are spectacular. When I read The Kite Runner, it knocked my socks off. Then I read A Thousand Splendid Suns and was more astounded.

    I have no idea how this man will top these books if/when he publishes a third.

    Glad you liked it!

  3. June 14, 2008    

    I’ve read both the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both left a lasting impression with me also. At times the content of his stories is so difficult to read but it also brings to the forefront of the horrors happening. I enjoyed both books and I’m anxious to see what he will write next with both of these novels having done so well.

  4. June 14, 2008    

    Thanks for listing the themes, Wendy:

    “This is a novel which explores many themes: family loyalty, the rigidity of religious division, the cruel effects of war, and the power of love and redemption.”

    I’ve added your link to the post Jill started last year at Book Around the World:
    http://bookaroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2007/07/afghanistan.html

    I hope you’ll post this review at Banned Books, as well, since it’s been “banned by the Afghan government.” Oops! I see that you’ve already posted it there:

    http://bannedbookschallenge.blogspot.com/2008/06/kite-runner-wendys-review.html

    Thanks, Wendy! And thanks for adding “Why Was It Banned?” at the end of each of your reviews there. I guess it should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t, and I now make sure I say something about that, too.

  5. June 14, 2008    

    Bethany: Yes! Please come back and let me know your final thoughts – and a link to your review!

    Jill: I guess I did it a little backwards, but it was interesting to me to see his writing mature from one novel to the next. I agree about his next book (do you know if one is in the works?).

    Darlene: I agree they are difficult to read – but so important given the current state of affairs. I think all Americans need to be better educated about what is really happening over there – it is far to easy to hide our heads in the sand, so to speak.

    Bonnie: Thanks for adding this to the Book Around the World post, and glad you are appreciating the “Why It Was Banned” part of my posts 🙂

  6. June 14, 2008    

    I loved The Kite Runner when I read it a couple of years ago, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same good luck with A Thousand Splendid Suns. Not sure what the problem was–maybe a mood thing–but I just couldn’t get into it! Maybe I’ll give it another go soon.

  7. June 14, 2008    

    Both books are on my TBR and I have Kite Runner on my list for many challenges. I am determined to read it before 2009. I loved the movie.

  8. June 15, 2008    

    I read A Thousand Splendid Suns before The Kite Runner and also thought that it was a much stronger book, although I really enjoyed reading both of them. I think with ATSS I learnt a lot more about a different community

  9. June 15, 2008    

    Andi: I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like A Thousand Splendid Suns. I loved that book and it made me cry.

    Teddy: I’ll look forward to your reviews!

    Katrina: It’s so nice to be validated on this! So many people have said The Kite Runner was the better of the two books, but they all read that one first (and it is a very compelling and good read). Not many people read them in reverse order. I think I preferred ATSS more because it shed light on the plight of women in Afganistan which really, really affected me.

  10. June 16, 2008    

    The graphic scenes and parts that felt contrived were enough to put me off from this book. I’m not sure now if I want to read A Thousand Splendid Suns or not. Does it have the same level of violence?

  11. June 16, 2008    

    I read A Thousand Splendid Suns and then The Kite Runner. I thought both were amazing. I haven’t been able to find out if he’s working on a third book or not? Have you heard anything?

  12. June 17, 2008    

    Jeane: If you don’t like to read about violence, I’d caution you with both of these books. Honestly, I don’t see how they could be written without the violence as they tell the story of what is happening in Afganistan…and it is violent and horrible what is going on there to women and children, as well as certain religious groups. But that said – they are profoundly moving novels and if you can get past the violent scenes in them, they are well worth the read.

    Natasha: I have not heard about whether or not a third novel is in the works – although I would assume he is still writing! If you hear anything, let me know…I’d definitely read more from this author.

  13. June 17, 2008    

    I was unaware of the bans on this book but somehow I’m not surprised. I read them in published order, but I like A Thousand Splendid Suns better as well (my dad and sister both disagree with me for some reason). I think maybe it was the focus on women AND Afghanistan.

  14. June 18, 2008    

    Trish: I think that’s why it touched me more too!

  15. June 20, 2008    

    I was BLOWN AWAY by the Kite Runner and it’s been a year since I read it.. I may be ready for ATSS soon. I didn’t want to read it right away after the Kite Runner and really can’t imagine how the author can top it.

  16. June 21, 2008    

    Lisamm: I will be interested to hear your thoughts on ATSS – as I said, I preferred it over The Kite Runner.

  17. mahmoed jama mahmoed jama
    September 16, 2008    

    Hi everyone. My friend recommended to me that I should read The Kite Runner because it was the first book ever that made her cry. Apparently the content of the book is very touching,I surely wouldnt doubt that after aknowledging that it put one of my most strong hearted mates to tears. Interesting to read that so many people have been moved by it which now only leave me with curiousity on how it is going to effect me.

  18. September 19, 2008    

    MJ: I hope you’ll come back and share your thoughts after you’ve read the book. Most people have found it a powerful read.

  19. October 23, 2008    

    i love it as i am studying it in english it is awesome but scary at times!

  20. October 26, 2008    

    Becci: I agree – it is a bit scary…but it is also an amazing story.

  21. JTKKICKER JTKKICKER
    December 3, 2008    

    I didn’t know much about Afghanistan until I read this book. It has opened my eyes more to the cruelty, unjust, immoral, and horrible events going on in that country. Over all it was a good book.

  22. December 4, 2008    

    JTKicker: I agree – it was an eye opener…an important book for us to read especially at this time in our own history.

  23. Neeharika Sharma Neeharika Sharma
    December 27, 2008    

    it is the novel that made me to the verge of tears..the emotions n thoughts of all characters are described beautifully..

  24. December 28, 2008    

    Neeharika: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I agree – this is a book which brought tears to my eyes as well.

  25. sarah sarah
    May 10, 2009    

    Banned in Afghan, yet I have to read it to graduate my senior year…

    It was a thrilling book to read, its the book that has been so close to making me cry. Im glad I read it

  26. May 11, 2009    

    Sarah: I’m glad I read it as well – have you read his second book yet? I thought it was even better than this one.

  27. chantelle ward chantelle ward
    March 24, 2011    

    Hello. I am really curious about the ban on this novel.

    I know that the film is banned in Afghanistan but is the novel also banned?
    If so when did it get banned and who banned it?

    In America, some states have also banned it, Which states have banned it? when did they ban it and why?

    Thanks
    i hope someone can help.
    Chantelle x

  28. March 28, 2011    

    Chantelle: I don’t have all the information re: the bans (dates, etc…). I did a Google Search when I wrote the review, which is how I learned about the banning of the film and controversy in Afghanistan. I would recommend that you do a google search and some research. A good place to start might be here and here.

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