Brief overview: A Thousand Splendid Suns is written by Khaled Hosseini and set in Afghanistan over a period of about thirty years. It focuses on two characters, Mariam, who is given away to marry a man thirty years older than her, and Laila whose life and hopes for the future are ripped apart by the war and turmoil in her country. The two women's lives converge, and they become close friends, before trying to take the future into their own hands, a dangerous goal in Taliban controlled Afghanistan where women must wear burqas and be accompanied by a male relative at all times.
I loved this book. I don't know a lot about Afghanistan, despite the media focus on it in the last decade, so from that point of view it was interesting. What I really liked was that it shows so many aspects of relationships and human interaction - the jealousy, rivalry and shame alongside loyalty, love, courage and compassion.
I'd wanted to read this since reading The Kite Runner and I wasn't disappointed. If anything, I liked it more - it was more open, less about pride and honour, more about love and friendship. It was less harrowing, more beautiful. It does still have difficult themes, but it's the struggle and the overcoming of obstacles that makes this story, that earns its ending. The fact that it is set in a real place, describing fictional characters enduring real events, that have probably been endured by real people is hard to read but it does reveal the human side of a very politicised conflict, making it all the more thought provoking.
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