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24 Feb 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

This was a very easy read, even more so than The Kite Runner. I do prefer books where the writing is a strong element to it's worth. This one is written well enough, in that it flows and doesn't cause me to cringe, but there's little depth to the prose. I think only on a few occasions did I pause to think - oh, that was a nice turn of phrase. Not often enough. While the writing in The Kite Runner wasn't exceptional by any means, it drew me in by offering up a certain eloquence that enveloped the characters' lives.

I think Hosseini heard the criticisms to his last book and paid heed. He allows a little more subtlety here, so that this tale doesn't descend into unlikely chaotic melodrama. Yet, there was a point somewhere where I became a little tired of the downpour of bad luck. It became predictable. And I believe it stops us from emotionally connecting.

The two main characters lack growth. Mariam is the one who I feel provided Hosseini with the greatest potential to depict the journey of maturity. Her final decision is not really a character change.

It wasn't until the last 100 or so pages that I was given a real surprise and I found myself enjoying the ride a little more. And it's not that I didn't enjoy this one, it's that it has left no real imprint on me, no desire to ever pick it up again, no lasting impression.

However, I understand why so many did love it. But if you have ever read about the plights of others in war-torn countries, whether fictional or from the daily news, none of what Hosseini has to say is compelling enough. Yes, it is a story that needs telling, perhaps over and over. But as a fictional work, it needs to have value as a novel. It fell short for me. There was nothing truly original, and whilst I was sympathetic towards the characters, and on a few occasions experienced heart-wrenching moments, I never fully engaged with them.

For me, the best opportunity for an original telling and a captivating tale of these women's plight was in their developing friendship. But we were robbed of that by Hosseini's incredible leaps in time. We missed out on the nuances of a blossoming connection between two people. Instead, we just have to accept dramatic events as the catalysts, and take the author's word for it - they became friends because of circumstance.
I'm glad many people, especially women, have found worth in it. Many have renewed gratitude for their own, more fortunate, lives. But as a work of fiction, it's really quite ordinary. And I think its success owes much to The Kite Runner's own success.

So it was okay. I didn't mind reading it. But I'll soon forget it.

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