by Khaled Hosseini
ISBN 978 1 4088 2485 6, first published in 2003, buy it on Amazon
I first read A Thousand Splendid Suns when I was eighteen. The book had been recommended to me by an old friend and although my memory of the plot’s intricacies has faded I can still remember the way that I cried for the characters and the tragedy that followed them. I’m not sure why it took me another six years to read another of Hosseini’s heart-rending novels but I am glad that I finally did. Although The Kite Runner didn’t make me sob the way that A Thousand Splendid Suns did (for a number of reasons, possibly mainly because of the difference in my own age when reading) I still thoroughly enjoyed reading, and at times found it difficult to stop.
The Kite Runner is now fifteen years old, and the book began with a foreword by Hosseini to mark its 10th anniversary edition (2011) and I was humbled to read about Hosseini’s own return to his father’s house in Wazir Akbar Khan. Hosseini writes of how he thought that he was writing The Kite Runner for himself, as a way to tell the story of the main characters; but, instead he found that he had written a story for the world. He said: “I see the unique ability fiction has to connect people, and I see how universal some human experiences are: shame, guilt, regret, friendship, love, forgiveness, atonement.”
These themes are precisely what The Kite Runner is about; the friendship of two boys that fractures and splits parallel to a doomed history. The Kite Runner’s emotional element is complimented by Hosseini’s ability to inform the reader of Afghanistan’s damaged past and relay the terror (especially to someone who is too young to have known about the details without studying it). Hosseini most importantly takes the reader on a journey through Afghanistan’s history; he gives a nation and a culture a voice that has been much needed in recent years. Beginning during the reign of Mohammad Zahir Shar Amir recounts a night of gunfire in the streets. Then the end of life as Amir, and many other Afghans, had known it came in April 1978 with a communist coup and in December 1979 when Russian tanks rolled into the country. The book travels through time, from the fall of the communist regime in the country, and later to the Taliban’s strict control.
We are introduced to Hassan and Amir as young boys, both from two different backgrounds and positions in society but both finding love and pure friendship in each other’s company. Amir’s father is wealthy, he is well-known, and well-loved by all; Amir is also our narrator. Hassan is of Hazara heritage and the son of Ali, they are servants to the aforementioned, however, all four possess a strong bond that goes beyond the realm of usual servant-master relationships. In comparison to bookish Amir, Hassan is loyal, trusting, and would do anything in his power for his friend.
The beginning of the book is dedicated to Amir and Hassan’s relationship. We are introduced to their pomegranate tree, Hassan’s love of hearing Amir read to him, and crucially; kites. What we learn most importantly is clarified by Amir at the beginning of the novel.
‘Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn on the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words.
Mine was Baba.
His was Amir.
Looking back on it now, I think the foundation for what happened in the winter of 1975 – and all that followed was already laid in those first words.’
We follow Amir and Hassan as they grow, and as they battle their own demons, and finally we return to Afghanistan in 2001 with Amir in search of a young boy. What Amir finds in Afghanistan as an adult is the complete opposite to what he experienced as a child, growing up in the same country.
What I can say about the book, after returning to it three weeks later, is that I am genuinely still attached to the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and whilst reading I felt that I was actually learning; not only about history, but about humans and their nature.
Note: I apologise for the rushed ending. I’ve recently been working a lot and felt bad not having posted this yet.