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on 17 November 2005
This is simply a superb book which comes very highly recommended. It is a fictional story set in modern day Afghanistan, under the fierce rule of the Taliban. The author succeeds in conveying to his readers the true feelings and oppression of day to day life under such a regime. A world in which women have no rights at all, where simply laughing in the street could earn you a lashing and listening to music is banned and where public executions by stone-throwing, a practice not seen in England for centuries, was rife until very recently. Though disturbing at times the book is a very real journey into a culture and civilisation many of us have heard much about via the press but few can imagine the thoughts of its people - until now. A Must read.
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on 28 October 2007
Set in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban regime, this impressive novel takes us into the lives of two couples: Mohsen Ramat, who comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban has destroyed; Zunaira, his beautiful wife, who was once a brilliant teacher and is now no longer allowed to leave her home without an escort or covering her face with a burqa. Intersecting their world is Atiq Shaukat, a prison keeper, a man who has sincerely adopted the Taliban ideology and struggles to keep his faith, and his wife, Musarrat, who once rescued Atiq and is now dying of sickness and despair.
Desperate and exhausted Mohsen wanders through Kabul when he is surrounded by a crowd about to stone an adulterous woman. Numbed by the hysterical atmosphere of the crowd and drawn into their rage, he too throws stones at the face of the condemned woman buried up to her waist. With this gesture the lives of all four characters move toward their destinies.
The novel shows in a realistic way how women survive in a world where they can be beaten up for laughing with their husband. It shows a country where people have been deprived of almost everything. Where the Taliban rule, love between a man and a woman, joy, music, freedom have been banned, replaced by violence and hatred, all in the name of God. A stunning read of high literary quality.
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on 27 February 2005
I bought this book because I enjoy reading about lifestyles different from my own.
When I started this book I had doubts that I would enjoy it but before I knew it, I had finished - because I became absorbed into it.
It was fascinating to read about what life may be like under the taliban.
The story is very interesting, but possibly disturbing.
Definitely a book to keep for re-reading again.
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on 8 November 2006
This is a good read and outines the mood of Afganistan under the Taliban.
This story focuses on two relationsships. One of Muhsen and his wife Zunaira and the other of Atiq and his wife Mussarrat. These two couples live in the same area however, they do not know each other.
It shows how Zunaira is effected by what the Taliban has done to thier country and the effects its having on society. Zunaira is educated and pretty much a liberal minded young lady until the Taliban come along and change it all for her. She has to start to wear the Burqa and she is completely against this and feels the Burqa has taken away her identity and her presonality. She is no longer able to work and her degree in law are recognised as mere papers that mean nothing. Zunaira is against public hanging and stoning and after her husband admits to stoning a women then thier relationship begins to deteriorate significanty.

Then there is Atiq and wife musarrat. Atiq a jailer bored of his job and his ill wife. Who is not able to cook, clean or be a wife due to her illness. This effects Atiq considerably he hates the idea of going home to his wife and he starts to talk to himself while in public place due to the effect of her illness on him.
He feels guily for how he feels for her and that he does not love her anymore. He feels obliged in keeping her as his wife as she nursed him while he was ill. His friends begin to see his mood swings in public places and the effect of him become mentally ill from this and see that he is depressed and that he needs to take on a new wife.

Then a young lady enters the prison cell for killing her husband. This is were all four lifes are tangled together and effects all concerned.

This book is completely recomended. It is serious but to the point. It is well written and has a meaning to make people realise the tenstions the taliban has caused in Afghanistan.
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on 22 July 2008
Regardless of the nationality or gender of the author, I read this book in part to gain an insight into life on the other side of the west/east divide - inasmuch as that's possible by reading books. I'm reading lots of books with an Asian theme at the moment - so there is a balance to my reading.

Anyway, I thought this story, and the storytelling, had the potential for greatness. The moment when I cottoned on to a certain character's plan was - literally - breathtaking. But for a story that had the potential for a kind of Shakespearian greatness - by that I mean it could be a mythic, iconic tale - it fell a little flat. Ultimately, this felt to me like a first draft - a sketching out of a story that would be filled in, deepened, coloured at a later date. So often, the reverse is true, and I find myself wishing the editor had had the guts to put a red pen through a hundred pages or so - but with Swallows of Kabul, I felt it needed more, to give it the heavyweight status it deserves. Nonetheless, I shall be seeking out more from this author.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2012
Interesting glimpse into life in Taliban controlled Afghanistan- militiamen armed with whips forcing passers-by in the mosque; resentful educated women denied any independence; wounded war veterans begging; regular executions of 'wrong-doers' watched by cheering crowds.
In this world live two unrelated couples: jailer Atiq and his dying wife Musserat, and dejected Mohsen and the beautiful Zunaira -the latter an educated couple whose dreams have been crushed. As Zunaira says about the obligatory burqua:
'Of all the burdens they've put on us, that's the most degrading...It cancels my face and takes away my identity and turns me into an object...If I put that damn veil on, I'm neither a human being nor an animal. I'm just an affront, a disgrace, a blemish that has to be hidden.'
The total change to the people's lives is perhaps nowhere more vividly brought out than when an old man says 'in an almost inaudible quaver: "Do you think we'll ever be able to hear music in Kabul one day?" '
This is, as I've said, interesting and indeed moving, but I didn't feel the novel particularly grabbed me. Even at the end when there's a twist that brings the couples together, it had dawned on me a chapter or two previously what they would do.
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on 31 July 2013
I was disappointed with this book, comparing to something like a Thousand splendid suns, no comparison,

I had no interest in the characters and didn't finish the book and that is unusual for me.

I did not get the feel of the country or identify with the suffering of the people.


Carol Hughes
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on 27 January 2014
I am fascinated by the lifestyle and culture of Afghanistan ever since reading The Kyte Runner which is probably the best book I have ever read, so I enjoyed this book also, it is easy to follow and has a good story line.
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on 13 July 2014
A beautiful story of Love and sacrifice set in Afghanistan. It primarily surrounds two couples and the change of ther relationships due to increasing presence of the Taliban. The reader can really feel the suffocation of the extremism present in society, which is well captured by the book cover of a woman in Burka. A good read which captures the attitudes and mood of the characters.
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on 30 August 2013
The descriptions of war, suffering and cruelty although real kept me laughing most of the time. I adore his way of infusing lightheartedness in his dire depictions. An excellent read to bring mirth to the sole in this sad world
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