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on 16 July 2007
This book moved me to tears, it is truly a remarkable and beautifully crafted novel. At times Hosseini paints harrowing and brutal scenes but always retains, through the characters of Mariam and Laila, humanity, spirit and above all love. There were chapters in this novel through which I literally held my breath, wishing with all my heart that what was unfolding would not, could not happen. It is very easy for those of us lucky enough to live in safety to visualise Afghanistan as a brutal, forsaken place, but this novel shows us something more. It forces the reader to acknowledge and recognise not only the suffering of people in our war torn world but something else, the human capacity for survival, forgiveness and love. Truly a wonderful book and one I would urge others to read. The best novel I have read in a long time and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
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A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS tells the wonderful, intensely moving story of how two modern Afghan women overcome the great challenges that have faced women in Afghanistan and rise above their victimization. Khaled Hosseini has succeeded in capturing many important historical and contemporary themes in a way that will make your heart ache again and again. Why will your reaction be so strong? It's because you'll identify closely with the suffering of almost all the characters, a reaction that's very rare to a modern novel.

In Part One, you meet Miriam at age five as she learns that she is a harami (an illegitimate child). Miriam's wealthy father, Jalil, had seduced a housekeeper, Miriam's mother, Nana, six years earlier and now provides for both of them in a remote shack where he can keep a low profile. Despite his concern about his reputation, Jalil adores the attention that Miriam devotes to him. All proceeds in an artificial and harsh way until one day Miriam decides to demand her father's attention. The consequences shape her world for the rest of her life.

In Part Two, the story moves to focus on Laila, who was born to Miriam's acquaintance Fariba at the end of Part One. Laila's rearing is almost totally the opposite of Miriam's. Laila is loved by both her parents with whom she lives and has many chances to develop her knowledge and skills. Laila lives in Kabul while Miriam grew up in the countryside outside of Herat. Laila is beautiful while Miriam is plainer. They also grow up in different times: Miriam is old enough to be Laila's mother. Miriam never had a male friend while growing up, while Laila is fascinated by the one-legged Tariq. All is going well for Laila until the war intrudes to send her life off into an unexpected direction.

In Part Three, the two women begin to share a destiny and develop a relationship. Their lives are more fundamentally changed by this relationship than by anything else that has happened to them. The magic of the story is most evident in Part Three.

In Part Four, we come into the present, when Afghanistan is once again opening itself to possibilities.

The time span of the book is from 1964 to the present. In the background, you are kept up-to-date on political events that shake the entire country. In some cases, those political events turn into revolutions and wars. In many cases, the violence intrudes into the lives of the book's characters. It's like reading War and Peace as adapted to modern Afghanistan.

The book also deals with issues of class, religion, sexual roles, child rearing, work, education, and community. These issues are highlighted in terms of the different regimes and attitudes of the controlling male characters. For Afghanistan was a world where the men called the shots, unless they chose not to do so. Although the issues that are raised and the way that they are raised are pretty predictable, it's a tribute to Mr. Hosseini that you won't see them coming. He moves his characters and action around in such a way that you won't see much foreshadowing of what's to come. Part of that skill comes in making each page so interesting and engaging that you are pulled away from thoughts like "I wonder where he's going next with this plot." I found myself deeply inside the story throughout. That's rare for me, especially in a story that focuses on female characters.

It's early in the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS turns out to have been one of the very top novels of 2007.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to discuss it with your friends. This novel would be a great choice for your book club.
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on 5 October 2008
This is one of the best books I have ever read. The story of two women brought together in the most awful, despicable circumstances which are totally out of their control. The husband Rasheed is probably one of the most hateful, violent characters I have ever come across and Hosseini's writing is so powerful that you believe these people really exist and I hated Rasheed with a passsion. This book had my heart thumping at a failed escape and crying at one of the most poignant chapters set in the Ghaza Stadium. Like the Kite Runner this book does end with a sense of hope but again, getting to that end still fills you with sadness. This is one book I will remember for along time.
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on 26 November 2007
Hosseini takes us into the private world of three generations living through the tumultuous events of the past three decades in Afghanistan from the Soviet occupation through to the ousting of the Taliban. The story is about ordinary people trying to get on with their lives as the world as they know it falls apart around them. The characters are vibrant and complex and Hosseini's prose brings their struggles, their fears and their hopes to life in a very tangible way. Sometimes a fictional interpretation of history is exactly what we need in order to be able to come to a real understanding of what it meant to live through historic events, particularly horrific ones. Hosseini shepherds us to this kind of understanding. We live through the horrors, the struggles and the hellishly difficult decisions as the characters face them.

The real beauty of the novel is in its resolution. Hosseini does not succumb to the temptation to give us a simplistic happy ending, which may make us feel good, but which would betray the reality. Nevertheless he manages to convey redemption and optimism. You will finish the book wishing you could step into the pages and meet the characters who have emerged from suffering with such a resilient sense of hope and a solicitude for the needs of others that leaves us awestruck.
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on 7 March 2009
This is an absolutely brilliant book depicting the lives of two extraordinary Afghani women who are thrown together under highly unusual circumstances. The book follows their struggle against extreme evil, hardship and victimisation. Mariam and Laila show incredible strength as women in a country torn apart by vicious war, and the untoward cruelty suffered by them at the hands of a shared husband whom both were forced to marry, is heartbreaking. It is almost impossible to imagine that this amazing story was set, for the most part of it, in the 1990s. It is such an insight into the country of Afghanistan and this is a book that will stay with you long after you read the last page. Truly one of kind.
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on 9 August 2007
I just oouldn't put it down! People say that a lot about books, but with this wonderful novel I really couldn't. I was then sorry I had finished it so quickly.

Khaled Hosseini knows how to play our heartstrings - and with this novel he does so beautifully. The characters are unforgetable, their stories tragic. The central female characters in this novel - Mariam and Laila are strong, and believable, the desicions they make all the more heartbreaking for the inevitability of them. Their world shaped by tradition and religion, is narrow with little if any real freedom.

In this novel Hossseini takes us on a journey through more than forty years of Afghan history - we feel the ravages of time upon a once beautiful city, as again and again fighting and bloodshed come to Afghanistan.

This is an excellent second novel, and I eagerly await more from this writer.
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on 6 August 2007
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

A story of two women, Mariam and Laila who are brought together through tragedy in each of their lives, and must face the torment of Rasheed who marries them both.

Set in Afghanistan, the tale is threaded into the history of the country from the Russian occupation to the fall of the Taliban.

I love this book. An emotive force drives the narrative that is grim and gritty but yet manages to hold hope always within the story, even though the despair should crush it to dust in the fist Khaled wields.

The story arc is better than The Kite Runner, Khaled's first book. (Although that book is brilliant) Probably due to The Kite Runner being semi autobiographical with a plot twist at the end bolted on for fear of the story not standing in its own merit.

My only slight criticisms are Khaled's use of adverbs where his writing is strong enough to hold up without their support, and I did loose connection with Mariam as a character for a while in the early bit of Part 3. He also succumbs to leaving the odd cliffhanger at the end of a chapter (chapter 16 for example) that might suit Dan Brown but seem out of place here.

Khaled's strengths lie in his ability to make you care about his characters and his ability to immerse you in events with deft touches of his pen, rather than over doing the prose.
For example:

It hurts. It hurts to breathe. It hurts everywhere.
A glass of water. A pink pill.
Back to the darkness.

He also takes you, like in The Kite Runner, into a world normally only viewed through news broadcasts. The culture and devastation of Afghanistan are brought to life through the simple tale of these two ordinary women. And whilst Rasheed covers their eyes in the mesh of the burqa, Khaled opens our eyes to the hearts within Afghanistan that beat with the same rhythm in hope and tragedy as in us all.

So if you want a ,book that is beautiful, tragic and well written read, A Thousand Splendid Suns this summer.
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A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS tells the wonderful, intensely moving story of how two modern Afghan women overcome the great challenges that have faced women in Afghanistan and rise above their victimization. Khaled Hosseini has succeeded in capturing many important historical and contemporary themes in a way that will make your heart ache again and again. Why will your reaction be so strong? It's because you'll identify closely with the suffering of almost all the characters, a reaction that's very rare to a modern novel.

In Part One, you meet Miriam at age five as she learns that she is a harami (an illegitimate child). Miriam's wealthy father, Jalil, had seduced a housekeeper, Miriam's mother, Nana, six years earlier and now provides for both of them in a remote shack where he can keep a low profile. Despite his concern about his reputation, Jalil adores the attention that Miriam devotes to him. All proceeds in an artificial and harsh way until one day Miriam decides to demand her father's attention. The consequences shape her world for the rest of her life.

In Part Two, the story moves to focus on Laila, who was born to Miriam's acquaintance, Fariba, at the end of Part One. Laila's rearing is almost totally the opposite of Miriam's. Laila is loved by both her parents with whom she lives and has many chances to develop her knowledge and skills. Laila lives in Kabul while Miriam grew up in the countryside outside of Herat. Laila is beautiful while Miriam is plainer. They also grow up in different times: Miriam is old enough to be Laila's mother. Miriam never had a male friend while growing up, while Laila is fascinated by the one-legged Tariq. All is going well for Laila until the war intrudes to send her life off into an unexpected direction.

In Part Three, the two women begin to share a destiny and develop a relationship. Their lives are more fundamentally changed by this relationship than by anything else that has happened to them. The magic of the story is most evident in Part Three.

In Part Four, we come into the present, when Afghanistan is once again opening itself to possibilities.

The time span of the book is from 1964 to the present. In the background, you are kept up-to-date on political events that shake the entire country. In some cases, those political events turn into revolutions and wars. In many cases, the violence intrudes into the lives of the book's characters. It's like reading War and Peace as adapted to modern Afghanistan.

The book also deals with issues of class, religion, sexual roles, child rearing, work, education, and community. These issues are highlighted in terms of the different regimes and attitudes of the controlling male characters. For Afghanistan was a world where the men called the shots, unless they chose not to do so.

Although the issues that are raised and the way that they are raised are pretty predictable, it's a tribute to Mr. Hosseini that you won't see them coming. He moves his characters and action around in such a way that you won't see much foreshadowing of what's to come. Part of that skill comes in making each page so interesting and engaging that you are pulled away from thoughts like "I wonder where he's going next with this plot." I found myself deeply inside the story throughout. That's rare for me, especially in a story that focuses on female characters.

It's early in the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS turns out to have been one of the very top novels of 2007.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to discuss it with your friends. This novel would be a great choice for your book club.
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VINE VOICEon 15 March 2009
On finishing Hosseini's novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, I went directly to the internet to investigate the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Here then is the genuine power of storytelling, the ability of a novel to affect a reader and make a difference - and if for nothing else, I am grateful to this novel for opening my eyes a little more.

The strengths of this novel for me lie in two aspects: the depiction of the friendship between Mariam and Laila (a source of great light), and that of the suffocating horror of being a woman under the Taleban regime in Afghanistan (a source of great darkness). In one terrifying section, Rasheed boards up the windows and confines Laila and her baby to their bedroom - a scene that seems like a metaphor for the way the Taleban disempowered women on every level. At the same time, thankfully, Mariam and Laila's friendship is developing, casting the light of their companionship into some of the bleakest moments in their lives.

Men in the novel fare somewhat badly, being rather vague or one-dimensional. Rasheed, the most dominant male character is unspeakably brutal, selfish and without a single redeeming quality, only becoming even more vicious as the novel continues. The other male characters, particularly the "good" guys: one-legged Tariq, and Laila's bookish father, are likeable enough, but essentially weak.

The story itself is surprisingly readable, considering the subject matter, and perhaps this is one of Hosseini's most important skills as a writer. He creates just enough hope to keep us reading, and the (overly) redemptive ending is necessary (this is fiction after all) to balance the terrible events that occur in the rest of the narrative. His prose is functional rather than poetic, the plot turbulent and fast-paced, and I read the last third of the novel in one emotion-charged sitting.

Hosseini dedicated his book to the women of Afghanistan, and it seems a good place to end this review, thinking about these women, and Mariam's mother's words that each snowflake is the "sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world... As a reminder of how women like us suffer... How quietly we endure all that falls upon us."
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on 3 July 2007
This book is an amazing novel written with tremendous insight and understanding of Afghani culture. I loved the Kite Runner and this second book did not disappoint. Hosseini is truly talented and brave in writing about taboo practices and in really getting to the core issues facing women in a culture that is hard for some to understand. Mariam and Laila's story moved beyond words, l read the book in one sitting, it is so well written and is sure to become a modern day classic. I cant wait for Hosseini's next book. Each page was compelling, intriguing and shocking at times l felt that l was taking the journey with Mariam and Laila. The impact this book had was deep and profund, thought provoking, simply wonderful!
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