Luther Obrock's Reviews > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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Dec 04, 2007

did not like it

I gave this book one star. Yes it is about Afghanistan, yes it contains some interesting and even well-written scenes, but all-in-all this book is maudlin and over the top and seems to refuse to end until every imaginable soap-opera-esque turn of plot has been explored and milked of every melodramatic possibility. Hosseini also has a penchant for the artlessly grotesque, and his scenes of child rape are jarring--made even more so by his seeming inability to integrate them meaningfully into the story.

Here I would like to differentiate between the emotionally powerful and the melodramatic. I started this book with high hopes, as it had come to me well recommended and I like kites. The beginning half shows much potential. Hosseini's descriptions of life in 1970's Kabul are often beautiful, as are his descriptions of the two boys playing with kites and reading the Shah-Nameh.

Midway, the book falls apart, and hard. Modern Afghanistan is a large canvas, and Hosseini tries to use as much of it as possible. In the broad sweep he fails. Yet the biggest disappointment for me was his completely predictible characterization. As the novel progresses, the characters become more and more like cartoons. The Kite Runner lacks any subtlety. Take, for instance, the character of boyhood bully who becomes a Taliban goon. Half-German? Nazi. Sodomite? Of course. Homosexual pediphile? We get it! He's the bad guy. Now shoot him in the face with a slingshot!!!

All in all, this book seems like a first attempt of someone who has a lot to say, but doesn't have the maturity or self-editing to say it well. For all of its bad parts, which unfortunately outweigh the good, I can see he has talent, and quite possibly potential. I'll read his next book.
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02/11 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Bec (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bec Thank you! So true.


Judith Rodenbeck Yes, maudlin and melodramatic. The story pumps along, and it is about Afghanistan, but gosh, every possible soap-operatic turn of events, cardboard emotions, and a rather wan narrative map really disappointed me. I read it when it came out largely because of the Afghan connection, and while there was a lot of straightforward information that was interesting as a novel this book felt like it had been plotted out in a workshop and then each plot point milked before a studio audience from the suburbs. Midkult at its blandest.


Carolee goodness, I thought I was the only one who felt this way!!! It seems like everyone else loved this book while i found it melodramatic.


Christopher Carr There were a few very nicely written scenes, and I don't think the author is untalented, but yeah: extremely formulaic and amateurish.


message 5: by Laurie (last edited Dec 03, 2007 07:54PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Laurie I'm happy to learn that I am not the only one that felt this same way! A potentially great story ruined by the melodramatic. So I'll just add a hearty amen to Luther's review!


Kathleen Thank you for articulating the analysis that I was struggling to form in my brain. I felt exactly the same way about this book but my emotions were clouding my ability to break down my thoughts into words. It was a very emotionally affecting story, one that will stay with me, but at the same time was so melodramatic that it caused me to discount it in some ways. I appreciate what you have to say about the over-characterization as well. Thanks again for the insightful review!


Regina Andreassen Well articulated! If this book is good literature then, we are doomed!


Nevermore Not sure I have your confidence that he has talent and am very gun shy about reading anything else he has written. Nice review, liking "artlessly grotesque" as a turn of phrase.


message 9: by Wei (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wei Di This review gave the book one star but I feel like this review convinced me a little bit about what is this book lack of. I used to really like this book. But this review is really rational and logical.
I agree with you that the first part of how Amir and Hassan play back in Kabul when they are young is constructed by so beautifully written language. But the middle part, from the invasion of Russian, the canvas turned to be dark and then the story changes to be in the modern Afghanistan. There are too many elements in the modern Afghanistan that he wants to include all of them, so he failed to make the as beautiful scenes as the first half did.
But this is a first book of him, and it should be good if his first attempt is already this successful.


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