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Customer Review

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, partly allegorical tale set in Afghanistan. Moving and poignant., 10 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: The Patience Stone (Hardcover)
Set in Afghanistan, The Patience Stone is a partly allegorical tale of a Muslim wife tending to her comatose soldier husband who has been shot in the neck. As she cares for him, for the first time ever she is able to speak to him without fear of censorship and he becomes, for her, like the mythical Patience Stone to which you tell your troubles and when the stone finally bursts, you are free from your torments. But also this might mean the Apocalypse.

The obvious literary link is with Khaled Hosseini, author of `The Kite Runner' and `A Thousand Splendid Suns'. Obvious in that, like Hosseini's works, this is set in Afghanistan and deals with the censorship of women there. Indeed, Hosseini provides a brief, thoughtful introduction to this English translation which has been beautifully translated from the French in which it was written by Polly McLean. But it's less melodramatic than Hosseini's books in my view.

The Patience Stone is set almost entirely in one room - the bedroom of the husband and just about the only character who talks is the wife (they are referred to as `'Man'` and `'Woman'` throughout). We are not even told on which side the Man was fighting or who he was fighting (although it appears to be a civil war rather than Western aggressors). This gives the book a strong focus that makes it feel that you are truly in the mind of the Woman throughout.

Perhaps only by writing in French himself, is Rahimi able to talk of the censored issues in his homeland. But the translation into English is superb and the poetic nature of this short book is fully maintained.

Time in the room is measured by repeated references to the drip of the sugar/salt drip that the Woman tends to for the Man, by the telling of the prayer beads and by the synchronised breathing of the husband and wife. Some may be irritated by this repetition, but I found it haunting, human and moving and the book is short enough for it not to become annoying.

Gradually the Woman opens up and confesses her thoughts and feelings to the Man, confronting the taboos of female oppression and sexuality. I have no doubt that this book took great courage to write, but it is far from being just "worthy" - it's a beautifully written tale with a shocking twist. Easily readable in one sitting, the story will stay with you for much longer.
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