Geoffrey Fox's Reviews > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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A rich boy grows up with a terrible sense of shame for a childhood act of cowardly betrayal, and only decades later redeems himself in a punishing campaign requiring great courage. This is the story thread for a book that is really about the traumas of Afghanistan, in its several stages: from the almost feudal stability under the king (overthrown in 1973), when the narrator's widowed merchant father and others in the dominant Pashtun ethnic group could live very comfortably at the expense of the despised Hazara servant caste, to the Communist government where the push for rapid reforms and the rise to power of other ethnic groups (including Hazara) roused violent resistance, to the triumph of the Taliban, celebrated as liberators but then quickly become far worse tyrants than any of their predecessors. The descriptions of how such a rapid chain of disasters affected the urban, educated Kabul élite are vivid and memorable. Also closely observed and moving is their struggles to cope with their sudden plunge of status as exiles in California, the narrator's once-powerful father as a gas station attendant, an ex-general living on his pride and the dole, and both of them trying to sell junk in a weekend market. All this makes the book worth reading — though the story is too melodramatically neat, every punishment exactly fitting the crime. There's also a movie, which is much weaker and insipid, because it leaves out all that makes the book's episodes scary in order to focus on the thin story of redemption.
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message 1: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Murray An excellent review, Geoffrey, and I agree with your assessment of the insipid movie, though I won't forget the shots of the boy flying his kite.


Geoffrey Fox Thanks, Margaret. In the movie, Baba's house in Kabul looks like Los Angeles and all the other scenery looked faked too — as it must have been, since they couldn't film in Kabul. The kites were good to watch, but Hosseini achieves much higher drama in the kite contest in his prose. We read the book in Spanish translation and saw the movie dubbed in Spanish (in our library reading club), but I doubt that I missed much.


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