By: Victoria Franco
Afghanistan was always a country I never really gave much thought to. I would catch glimpses of the country on the news as I flipped through television channels, or I would overhear my parents discussing the country at the dinner table, but my interest never seemed to be piqued by this far away land. I had little knowledge of and little interest for this tumultuous country. However, after reading Khaled Hosseini’s 2007 novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, that has changed.
The book takes place in Afghanistan, describing important events from when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 all the way to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. A Thousand Splendid Suns follows two protagonists, Mariam and Laila. The two women’s lives are in stark contrast to one another, until they’re thrown into the same household.
Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy cinema owner and a maid, is forced into marriage with a forty-year old shoemaker from Kabul named Rasheed. Rasheed soon becomes the novel’s antagonist as he begins to abuse Mariam physically and mentally.
Part 2 of A Thousand Splendid Suns follows Laila, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of a scholar. Laila grows up a privileged life in Kabul during the 80s while Afghanistan is occupied by the Soviets. However, her life turns upside down when her relationship with her best friend Tariq is complicated and the war begins to directly impact her life. Soon, Laila finds herself thrown into the house of the misogynistic Rasheed, where Mariam and Laila bond. A “mother-daughter” relationship between the two ensues, becoming the main focus of the book.
This riveting novel elegantly weaves Afghan history and politics into a captivating narrative. The horrors of war and political instability are expressed through the interesting lives of the main characters, innocent victims of the war-ravaged country. A Thousand Splendid Suns brings Afghanistan’s culture, history, and beliefs to life through the lives and stories of Mariam and Laila. Hosseini brings readers two very different lives in Afghanistan breaking any stereotype or misconception that all people in Afghanistan think and live the same way. A Thousand Splendid Suns is an entrancing novel that educates readers with Afghan history and culture, and keeps them on the edge of their seats through the stories of Laila and Mariam, which is a very rare combination.
Categories: Arts & Culture