Stephen's Reviews > A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1413439
's review
Jun 30, 11

bookshelves: literature, audiobook, ebooks, 2006-2010, historical-fiction, life-changers, good-guys
Read from June 25 to 29, 2011 — I own a copy

A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns-1-1
Like diamonds and roses hidden under bomb rubble, this is a story of intense beauty and strength buried under the surface of the cruel and capricious life imposed upon two Afghani women.
She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she'd said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.
Staggeringly beautiful and deep and rich and sad and frightening and infuriating. There’s a lot I want to say about this book and so I cry your pardon if this review is a bit of a rambler. You should definitely read this book. I’ll probably repeat this again, but I want to make sure I don’t forget to say it. Buy the book and read it.

I love good historical fiction, especially when set in places and/or periods of which I am not very familiar. Afghanistan certainly fit that description, which makes me feel a significant amount of personal shame given how intertwined the country has been with the history of the U.S. over the last 30 years. That same time frame is also the primary focus of the novel so I feel like I got a real taste of the history of this mysterious time.

That said, the historical events described in the novel are merely spice for the narrative and are clearly not the entrée at this literary feast. However, I would likely recommend this book for the historical component alone even if I didn’t like the rest of the novel…oh, but I did so much like the rest of the novel.

The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, born 20 years apart, but whose lives are intertwined through the events of the novel. Mariam (born in 1959) is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy merchant named Jalil who has 3 wives and 9 “legitimate” children. Mariam’s mother, Nana, was a servant in Jalil’s house whose affair with Jalil resulted in Mariam. As you might expect, the 3 wives were less than enthused and Nana and Mariam were forced to live on the outskirts of town, making Nana a bitter often cruel person to Mariam.

The other main character is Laila (born in 1978) who lives in the same area as Mariam. Laila’s story begins with her close friendship with a boy named Tariq who loses a leg to a Soviet land mine when he’s 5 years old. Years later, with Kabul under constant rocket attacks, Laila’s family decides to leave the city. During an emotional farewell, Laila and Tariq make love. Later, as her family is preparing to depart Kabul, a rocket kills her parents and severely injures Laila.

I don’t want to spoil the plot by giving away too many details, so let me just say that through a series of mostly tragic circumstances, Mariam and Laila both end up married to a serious scumbag named Rasheed. I want to clarify that last remark because I think it goes to the most chilling aspect of the novel for me. One of the novel’s primary strengths is the bright light the author shines on the nasty way women are treated in countries like Afghanistan.

Now not being knowledgeable enough about the culture to make a well-informed analysis, I strongly suspect that the character of Rasheed, while made somewhat worse for dramatic effect, is close enough to what was “the norm” as to be positively sickening. Thus, when I say scumbag (which I whole-heartedly mean), part of the emotional impact of Rasheed’s actions came from my not seeing them as cartoonish, but as part of an “institutional evil” that was all too common.

Bottom-line, Rasheed is an ignorant, mean-spirited, petty little pile of assbarf who will make even the most serene and passive reader feel like loading the .45 with hollow points and performing a gunpowder enema on his sorry, wretched chair cushion.

Anyway, once Mariam and Laila find themselves together, the story deepens as these two women slowly learn first to live with each other and later to depend upon each other as they face almost daily challenges, mostly from their abusive husband.
She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies, and sometimes not.
The lives of these women is an epic journey in every sense of the word and I felt like I was on a journey of my own as I road along with them.

While there is much of darkness and pain throughout the book, Hosseini never allows the emotional tone of the story to descend in melodrama. There is little self-pity or wallowing in grief. There is pain, there is loss but there is no surrender. Instead, these women absorb tremendous blows (both figuratively and literally) and continue to live.

There is a great passage near the end of the book that I am going to hide with a spoiler because it reveals the final fate of one of the characters, but it is simply a perfect summation of the strength and dignity that is the heart of this story. (view spoiler) This is a gorgeous, beautiful story that is made all the more so by its tremendous importance.

Read it….you will be happy you did. 5.0 Stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

P.S. I listened to the audio version of this as read by Atossa Leoni and she was brilliant. If you listen to audio books, this is definitely one where the narrator enhances the experience of the novel.
223 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Thousand Splendid Suns.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Elle (new) - added it

Elle Oooh, win. This book is sitting on my shelf looking at me as we type. Interested to see what you think. Although clearly I won't be waiting for long seeing as you are a MACHINE.


Stephen I'm almost finished with it (only about 35 min left on the audio book) and it is very, very good. I was not sure how I was going to like this and it won me over early on. I have read The Kite Runner yet, but it is now a must read after how good this one was.


message 3: by Elle (new) - added it

Elle Seriously. Do you EVER sleep?

Were they not kidding when they said Vegas never sleeps?


message 4: by Stephen (last edited Jun 27, 2011 05:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen Elle wrote: "Seriously. Do you EVER sleep?"

Yes, but not as much as I probably should. Plenty of time for sleep when I'm dead. ;)


message 5: by Eric (new)

Eric Stephen wrote: "Elle wrote: "Seriously. Do you EVER sleep?"

Yes, but not as much as I probably should. Plenty of time for sleep when I'm dead. ;)"


Hear, hear. Sleep is for the weak :-)


Bill One of my favorite books. Nice review, glad you enjoyed it.


message 7: by Lea (new)

Lea This sounds similar to "A Fine Balance" in that there is so much sorrow throughout the book, yet the overall feeling isn't one of sadness.


message 8: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie OK! I will read/listen to this book!!..... loved the review.


Stephen Lea wrote: "This sounds similar to "A Fine Balance" in that there is so much sorrow throughout the book, yet the overall feeling isn't one of sadness."

That is exactly right, Lea. Well said.


Stephen Stephanie wrote: "OK! I will read/listen to this book!!..... loved the review."

Thanks, Stephanie. I hope you like it. I really think you will.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I've gotta say I'm surprised that this was good, Stephen. I've heard such godawful things from intelligent readers about The Kite Runner that I figured this would be a total loss as well


Stephen ☠The Dread Pirate Grant☠ wrote: "I've gotta say I'm surprised that this was good, Stephen. I've heard such godawful things from intelligent readers about The Kite Runner that I figured this would be a total loss as well"

Grant, I haven't read the Kite Runner yet, but it is hard to see Hosseini missing the mark based on this book. I can understand if the plot and background are not someone's cup of tea (different strokes and all that) and I certainly get someone saying they just weren't interested in this type of story. However, I would find it hard to dispute the quality of the prose or the story, both of which are sensational. I find the problem with many so called "intelligent readers" is that they still end up arguing taste rather than merit. Heck, I know far too many "IRs" that can't read SF or fantasy because they think it is just silly...you and I both know how wrong that is. ;)


message 13: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie I liked The Kite Runner....and I'm kinda smartish.


Stephen Stephanie wrote: "I liked The Kite Runner....and I'm kinda smartish."

Pssst...Stephanie, I think kinda is supposed to have "h" on the end. ;)


Stephen Stephen wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "I liked The Kite Runner....and I'm kinda smartish."

Pssst...Stephanie, I think kinda is supposed to have "h" on the end. ;)"


Oops, Psssst is supposed to have a fourth s.


message 16: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Haha!


Brandy I love this book. it went straight to my favorites when I was done. the kite runner was a great read but this one takes the cake for me. I can't Wait to see what he writes about next.


message 18: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill I liked The Kite Runner as well, but Im not to smrt


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Well I've had a solid string of success reading your recommendations so I'll add this one to the list as well, my friend


Stephen ☠The Dread Pirate Grant☠ wrote: "Well I've had a solid string of success reading your recommendations so I'll add this one to the list as well, my friend"

I hope you like it. I'll tell you that I was hoping more than one while I was reading this that Caine would show up to deal with Rasheed!


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Lol...got it. Rasheed = Douchebag. I'll let ya know how it turns out for me when I read in a couple of weeks


message 22: by Carolyn (last edited Jul 24, 2011 04:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carolyn A brilliant review of a brilliant book. The book made me teary-eyed at several points in the story and so did your review, particularly the part about Mariam that you have hidden as a spoiler.


Stephen Carolyn wrote: "A brilliant review of a brilliant book. The book made me teary-eyed at several points in the story and so did your review, particularly the part about Mariam that you have hidden as a spoiler."

Thanks, Carolyn. I am glad you liked it. The "spoiler" had the same effect on me.


Vardaan Aggarwal No, Rasheed has not been made worse for a 'dramatic effect', as you say. Men like him are common in the country, and some are even worse. Rasheed's character is completely spot-on. Nice review, by the way!


message 25: by Krishna (new)

Krishna Bajaria Nice review.


message 26: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Excellent review of an excellent book! I read this years ago, but you brought it all back, and made me want to read it again! Thank you!


Lynne King Stephen, I'm just overwhelmed with your incredible review. I was going to write one, but I'm not so sure now... I just "breathed" this book.


message 28: by Mani (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mani Your review is amazing!!! The choice of quotes at the top, i couldn't agree with more!


message 29: by Uzma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Uzma Shaikh I love your review Stephen. I have read this book and your review makes it all the more better. Th book was really brilliant and it bought tears to my eyes. This book gives me hope. Hungry for more ;)


back to top