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A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel

Double-N-Jenn, May 3, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini gives you a completely different perspective on the country of Afghanistan and allows you to see the Middle Eastern culture with new eyes. The novel highlights the nation’s bloody past and the struggle of women against suppression through the stories of Laila and Mariam. Hosseini writes the book as a way to present to the reader a different Afghanistan that is hard to see in today’s society. The book has an excellent plot with an involving story that is gruesome yet necessary to convey the pain and suffering of the country and its people.
Mariam is the daughter of Jalil and Nana and was born a harami, a bastard child. Until the age of 15 she grows up loving her father and looking forward to every moment with him. However, when she finally leaves her Kulba to see him in Herat, she realizes that she is not accepted because of her status as a bastard child. After her mother’s death, she is placed in Jalil’s custody. Jalil, ashamed of having a harami child, forces Mariam to marry a brutish man named Rasheed in order to distance himself from her. Rasheed lives many miles away in Kabul and although he is kind to Mariam at first, he quickly turns on her when she can not give him a son. The violent clash between Rasheed and Mariam continues throughout the novel.
Laila also joins this struggle when she is made to marry Rasheed for the sake of her unborn child. However, her beginnings are very different from Mariam’s. Laila is raised by a supportive father who promotes her education and states, “you can be anything you want, Laila” (103). Although her mother doesn’t pay her much attention, she finds comfort in her friend Tariq, who ends up being her lover. Laila is surrounded by the tragedies of war. It takes her friend Giti, her parents, and forces Tariq and his family to move to Pakistan. After her parents’ death, she is forced to marry Rasheed in order to preserve the life of her and Tariq’s unborn child. This marriage, Laila states is a sacrifice that she had to make as a mother, “Laila already saw the sacrifices a mother had to make. Virtue was only the first” (196). Laila made this sacrifice knowing that she could not survive on her own and without male support.
One of the main themes of the novel is the suppression of women. The restriction of women is noted by the use of the burqa as both a symbol of suppression and a symbol of protection against the outside world. Although this symbol is usually only used to show restraint, Hosseini takes a different perspective on it. “And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer…she no longer worried that people new…all the shameful secrets of her past” (66). Hosseini makes the people, the Taliban and Rasheed, the suppressors of the women, not the culture of the country. The country and the women seem to follow a paralleled plot of struggle. With every change in power come different restrictions or freedoms for women and more or less destruction of the country. Hosseini vividly describes the sound of the bombs and the horrible deaths caused by war that destroy the nation.
The images of war created by Hosseini are gruesome and violent and, combined with sex and harsh physical abuse, should limit this book for mature audiences. However, these elements also allow for a vivid picture of the tragedy of war that shadows the country of Afghanistan. Although the images of war and abuse created by Hosseini are quite brutal, they are not over exaggerated and therefore create an accurate perception of abuse and the war. However, the novel also provides another side to Afghanistan, the one that is filled with beauty and decent people. This side is usually unseen by society and not covered by the media. Hosseini’s use of imagery is profound in his description of the country. Hosseini seeks to make the Middle East and western society closer by creating these images of a different Afghanistan. Hosseini also attempts to close the distance of western and Middle Eastern societies by showing the similarities between the conflicting major religions. Many of the ideas from the Koran expressed in the novel are also in the Christian Bible.
The novel best portrays these ideas by Hosseini’s skillful writing. His use of imagery and tone produce involving characters for the reader to connect to. His detailed descriptions of the characters help to create the tone of the novel that allows the reader to feel with the characters. This ability to connect the readers to the characters allows readers to be more involved in the plot of the book. Hosseini’s use of foreshadow also contributes to the novel’s exciting plot. By foreshadowing certain events, the writer creates apprehension in the novel that keeps the reader guessing and anticipating the plot’s development.
Hosseini’s talent is prominently seen in A Thousand Splendid Suns and is a book worth reading. I would highly recommend this book, especially to those who don’t know the true Afghanistan or truly understand the nation’s struggle. This book will open your eyes to a culture that the media doesn’t show through a very involving story of love, life, death, and sorrow. Prepare for a book that you can’t put down.
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