After a long, hectic day, as I sat with a cup of hot tea, I saw this book peeping out through a pile of my newly bought novels. Considering the reviews of all leading newspapers and its growing popularity among all book clubs, I decided to delve into it. Little did I know that I would end up reading the entire novel in 5 hours!
“A Thousand splendid suns” is a marvel. Khaled Hosseini has left no stones unturned in depicting the plight of women in Afghanistan with such beauty. It was not difficult to make out that how the book became a huge bestseller and went in for a reprint soon after its release.
Having it split into parts, the first half of the story starts off with the tale of a teenager named Mariam and her life. She is Jalil’s daughter, a wealthy man who owns a huge business and lives with his wives and children in Herat. Mariam’s mother “Nana” (as she called her) used to work as a servant in Jalil’s house. And, just so because Mariam is Jalil’s illegitimate daughter she is not supposed to live with him in his house, so she lives with her mother in the outskirts. She thinks very high of Jalil because he gets her gifts and cares a lot about her. When she goes to meet him at his place for the first time, she ends up sleeping in the porch outside the house. Heartbroken and shocked, when she gets back to her home, she finds that her mother has committed suicide. Mariam lives in Jalil’s house till he finds a “suitable match” for her without letting her know, a person who is thirty years elder to her, Rasheed. He lives in Kabul and is a shoemaker and after their marriage, gradually, Rasheed becomes abusive.
The book is not as autobiographical as and when compared to his first one, “The Kite Runner”, but the characters shown in the book clearly portray the sufferings and difficulties by giving it a very realistic edge. There were moments when I found the book to be a little boring and got offbeat, but hey, I completed it in one go and it pretty much proves that the book is a must-read!
The second half depicts the life of Laila, who is a beautiful and an intelligent student and lives with her parents in Kabul and is best friends with Tariq, her neighbour. Soon, she and Tariq get involved in a romantic relationship in spite of knowing about the fact that there will be no future whatsoever. Tariq and his family decide to leave Kabul when war strikes Afghanistan. And just when Laila and her parents are about to leave Kabul, their house is bombarded with a rocket leaving her parents dead and her, critically injured. Mariam and Rasheed give her shelter and food. Rasheed who is keen on marrying Laila, tries everything to woo her and when Laila realizes that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child, she decides to marry Rasheed. She gives birth to a girl and this displeases Rasheed, in turn making him abusive towards Laila as well. Going through the same scenario, Mariam and Laila become best friends and plan to run away from his place.
It is shown that a woman is a woman’s confidant, and that she is the only one who can, out of everyone, understand another woman in the best possible way. The book is all about mothers, daughters and friendship between women.
The final half starts off with Tariq’s surprise visit to Laila and them being reunited. Mariam kills Rasheed using a shovel when he starts to beat Laila brutally as he gets to know about Tariq’s visit. Mariam confesses about the murder to Taliban just to drift their attention away from Laila and Tariq and is executed. The two of them start staying in Pakistan with their daughter and Laila’s son. Just after the fall of Taliban, they decide to return to Afghanistan and after reaching Mariam’s home (where she was raised) they find a videotape of the movie Jalil had promised her to show on her birthday, some money and a letter of regret of killing her dreams and forcing her into a marriage where there was nothing but darkness. Soon after returning to Kabul, Tariq and Laila fix up the orphanage and Laila starts working there, as a teacher and they continue living their life, together.
The explanation of violence, be it from Rasheed or the Taliban, has been mentioned in a very straightforward manner. There are some chapters which waft your interest but only to grab it back with some real emotional and heart wrenching phrases and lines. The mentality of men in Afghanistan is depicted in a way which will make you hate them. The manhandling of women and their ill treatment, as depicted in the form of lines, moves you and ignites your inner conscience. Some of my favourite lines from the book were:
“A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated…”
“A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed. It won’t stretch to make room for you.”
“And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them. She uprooted them and ditched them before they took hold.”
“Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. 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 women suffer.”
It is a beautiful book! Totally worth reading!