Monday, December 03, 2007

Another Afghanistan book

Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan who moved to the US in 1980, has written another book to follow his best seller 'The Kite Runners', a story of the friendship of two boys in Afghanistan, which then breaks apart (the friendship, that is - though Afghanistan....?).

His new book 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' (sounds like a quote from a poem), is also set in Afghanistan, from before the Soviet Invasion in 1979 till about now. It follows first one woman, then another, and finally they are united to face all that Afghanistan can throw at woman during this period. This is the usual - difficult marriage arrangements, abusive husbands, catastrophic healthcare, inability to study/work, starvation, dead bodies everywhere....

I'm afraid if you have read one book about the lives of women in Afghanistan, you've read them all. This adds nothing to the debate, other than being an additional resource. It has been written in American English, which slightly grates, when you read about 'ass' and 'kids' (not those of goats...). The literary value is fairly negligible - you would not read it for the wonderful use of language. On the other hand, it could be much, much worse....

The book is sold at airports, and of course it's good, and important, that the topic is accessible to many people who might not otherwise enter a bookshop. Then again, it's a very fast read - although it's a large paperback, the print is well-spaced out on the page and you can read it in a day (it is unputdownable in that respect). So it fills up (hand) luggage space but won't keep you occupied for even a trip from London to Australia, say.

This book is interesting, but I liked the first book much better. Oh, it's hard following a successful first novel!