“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
Those who frequent this blog will recall the length of time for which this book was “currently reading”. I have no plausible explanation for why it took that long to get through. It was not a smooth read and I started and completed several books in parallel.
It started a couple of years ago, when my favourite sales man at the Cairo book fair recommended The Kite Runner. The book to me was life altering, I fell in love with Hosseini’s writing style and the magnificence of the touching story. I laughed, I cried, I committed whole chunks of the book to memory and I learned and grew. Just by reading it. I raved about the book to family and friends and marketed it like I had a vested interest.
With baited breath I awaited his new book. Moreover his new book was a story about 3 generations of women in Afghanistan. The cover promised a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding. It was a story about women. It was a story about humanity.
I had unrealistically high expectations and thus was disappointed. I was disappointed by the pace of the book. His attention to detail and fussiness came at the expense of smooth sailing. The book was exciting in parts and completely and utterly boring in others. Unlike his first novel the characters in this book, with the exception of Laila and Mariam, were uni-dimensional. He invested a lot of energy into the depth and stories of the main two that everyone else became an accessory. Cliche good or cliche evil.
Meanwhile, should you persevere, the ending is absolutely brilliant. Albeit harbouring some elements of Egyptian cinema’s all’s-well-that-ends-well finales. Yet the writing itself was amazing. I am envious of his word choices and his ability to express himself. Also throughout the whole novel there are some interesting quotes.
Funnily enough, the book is quite the feminist story, with a general animosity towards most of the males in the novel. This is reflected in the dialogue and the life lessons that the older characters try to pass on to the younger ones.
“Let me tell you something. A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing, Mariam. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’ bleed, it won’t stretch out to make room for you. ”
“You can be anything you want, Laila. I know this about you. And I also know that when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance.”
– Holds equally true for Egypt, I couldn’t agree more.
“Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed, And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. THis was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.”