Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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's review
May 28, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, book-club, 2007
Read in March, 2007

This is a largely uncritical review, but I found it to be a beautiful, haunting, powerful tale. The Kite Runner is about a young boy, Amir, growing up in a wealthy part of Kabul, Afghanistan, the only son of a popular entrepenuer, who betrays his best friend and later has a chance to redeem himself. As his father's best friend, Kahim, says, "There's a way to be good again."

Amir grows up with Hassan, the Hazara servant boy whose father, Ali, grew up with Amir's father. Hassan's mother left as soon as he was born, and he endured taunts and bullying all his life, especially for being a Hazara, which I've never heard of before but I gather it's like being a Jew in Nazi Germany, only with no money or education. So maybe it's more like the black slaves? Anyway, Amir knows he's a coward, he wants to write stories, not fight back against the likes of local, half-German tough boy Assef, who idolises Hitler. He knows his father is disappointed in him, and is jealous when his dad ("Baba") shows affection and preferential treatment toward Hassan.

Hassan is also the best kite runner in the city. The boys play a kite-flying game in winter; the strings are coated in tar and cut glass, and they deftly fly them so that their kite cuts the strings of other boys' kites. The winner is the last kite in the air, and extra kudos to you if you run down the last kite to be cut.

Amir wins the kite flying tournament one year, and sends Hassan off after the last cut kite. Hassan, devoted and loyal to Amir, runs off, saying over his shoulder, "For you, a thousand times over." Winning the tournament means everything to Amir, for Baba will love him now. But Amir witnesses something horrible horrible horrible, and does nothing, says nothing. Even when he learns that Hassan knows he saw what happened, Amir does nothing. He chooses his father's attention and love over Hassan. Because Hassan's presence reminds Amir of what happened, he can't stand being around him anymore, and finds a way to get rid of both Hassan and Ali.

Amir is a very interesting character. As a boy, aware of his own weaknesses, he is not very likeable, though as a literary character his personality is so well written, his first-person voice edged with a touch of snobby, upper-class arrogance. He is embarrassed by Hassan: while he likes to play with him, when Amir's other friends are around Hassan isn't invited to join in, and Amir never calls him his friend. When Amir is older, he knows that Hassan was the better person, the stronger and braver and kinder, more generous soul. But Amir is just a child, and one with high expectations of himself, let alone his father's.

There were many things to love about this book. First of all, it wasn't set in the 50s!! It starts out in the 70s, when Amir is about 12, and follows him through to 2002, about a year after 9/11. It is very eye-opening in regards to Afghanistan, a country where, frankly, very few of us know much about. The Kite Runner reveals how relatively modern their lives were before the Russians entered the scene, and how the Taliban were welcomed at first because they got rid of the Russians. After that, Hosseini is very unforgiving towards the Taliban, and paints a very black picture of them. When Amir has to return from America to Afghanistan, the depictions of the Taliban executing adulterers and threatening people for cheering too loudly at sports events, is frightening. What happens to Amir when he encounters an old foe is even scarier. Yet this is not a morbid book. There is a vein of silver running all through it: hope. The book ends with hope, a small nugget of it, a private, personal hope, but important nonetheless.

Hosseini shows the human side of Afghanistan, not the poppy-growing, fanatical side. He paints a picture of Kabul full of Mulberry and pomegranate trees, green grass and playing fields and parks, markets full of the spicy aroma of kabobs, and a tightly-knit community no less family-oriented than the Greeks or Italians. I learnt about some Afghan customs, I even learnt the meaning of some words, like Inshallah ("God willing", if my memory serves me correctly - I don't have the book with me).

This is a sad tale, for what was lost and what was - and is - endured, but also a warm one, for the colourful characters, the solidarity, the determination. Ultimately a story of survival and redemption, The Kite Runner was thoroughly enjoyable, a quick, not particularly challenging read, but one that challenges our assumptions and prejudices.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Minhazul Hoque Very good review. I always had a question about what Haazara meant. I got all sorts of definitions about it but I couldn't find the most concrete definition. Do you think you have one definition formulated? If so I want you to tell me.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I don't have a definitive understanding of the word, just an understanding based on context sorry. You might want to ask someone who speaks the language?

message 3: by Violeta (new)

Violeta I loved your review and especially your definition
'beautiful, haunting, powerful tale" So with the word tale i justify the too many coincidences mentioned above.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Violeta wrote: "I loved your review and especially your definition
'beautiful, haunting, powerful tale" So with the word tale i justify the too many coincidences mentioned above."

Works for me! ;)

Maria Pomeroy Great review!!
I just finished it and totally agree with you.

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