Hello dear reader(s)! I’m sure you’re as surprised as I am to see another review on the blog. 🙂 But fear not! This instalment of Nessa reads books and writes reviews (NRBWR) is going to be short and sweet (let’s face it, we all know it’s going to be long 😀 ), because I’ve read Khaled Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner for a book club led by 3 young and amazingly talented women. You can find their Croatian blog here if you want to take a look. And if you want to join the biweekly book club, you can find more info on the Facebook page. Now that the formalities are out of the way 🙂 let’s get on with the review.
The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini’s first book. It was published in 2003 and 4 years later it was adapted as a motion picture. The book’s main protagonist and narrator is Amir, the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant from the Wazi Akbar Khan district. The story functions as Amir’s autobiography in 3 parts. In essence the first part depicts his childhood in Kabul during the 70s, the second deals with his escape from Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion and life in the USA, while the third depicts his return to Afghanistan in order to save his childhood friend’s son.
The Kite Runner is a generational story, with emphasis on the relationship between the parent and the child, especially between father and son. Along with the parent-child theme, the novel’s main focus are the themes of guilt and redemption. It’s fascinating to note how one generations’ sin, guilt for that sin and its atonement sin affects the second generation who is unaware of the sin. How that atonement, and the desire to be a better person sets the characters apart instead of bringing them closer together. And how that process is repeated, again and again, like a circle until there is a glimmer of hope that it might be broken.
However, personally the most interesting part of the book weren’t the universal themes of the novel: father-son relationship, guilt, redemption etc. My favourite part of the book were the different decades, countries and cultures that this book describes. The first part of the book is set during the last years of the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Trough Amir’s child eyes we see a cosmopolitan Kabul, and a very different Afghanistan than the one which comes to mind when someone mentions Afghanistan today. Hosseini describes how the rich folks of Kabul dressed as their counterparts in the West, the cinema was showing dubbed Hollywood movies, there’s mention of expensive train sets and various other toys given as birthday presents, even a Sting-Ray bicycle.
This cosmopolitan Kabul of the affluent people is rich and vibrant, but you can already sense the fin de siècle in that joie de vivre and the coming of another era that will bring great turmoil. And so it happens, for in the second part of the book the Soviets have invaded Afghanistan and Amir and his father, along with others are fleeing the country and its new regime. They manage to immigrate to America and now they have to face a different culture and a different way of life than they left. They’re not part of a rich and respected merchant class in the US, now they’re working class people now and have a whole new set of problems. In the third part of the book we see another transition, the shock of the new Afghanistan under the Taliban regime compared to the Afghanistan of Amir’s memories. The transitions from one culture, one way of life to another and the characters reactions to those transitions is fascinating to read.
To conclude the book is an interesting read; it’s also shocking and violent in places and sometimes the characters frustrate you so much that you want to beat them with a hammer on the head because of their stupidity. But all the characters are very human, very real and despite the differences between us they are relatable and interesting. The change of settings and the sense of fin de siècle that soaks the book is so powerfully sad and lovely that you read it with such gusto, although it makes you sad. If you have a chance to get this book please read it, regardless if the only thing you know about Afghanistan is the recent US intervention and the fall of the Taliban regime. You’ll enjoy an excellent story and who knows it might encourage you to find out more about the region. 🙂 Until next time dear reader(s)!