Greetings. (…Earthlings. Sorry, can’t help myself. ) Back with a short-ish entry. If you know me, you’d know my life is constantly full of lists. Usually to-do lists; absolutely necessary during term-time, but I tend to have ambitious to-do lists for holidays too, albeit only in my head sometimes. One of the things I wanted to accomplish this time was to finish the books I bought ages ago, during summer in Malaysia with my duit raya (I thank those generous souls who still gave me duit raya despite my being a grown-up kid), with the intention of reading them during / in between flights coming back to Canterbury.
Of course, that never happened. I think I only read a few pages of the Qur’an at some point, but never managed to crack the spines of these story books. I bought two: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw. This entry is about the first. Not so much a review, because I’m unqualified for that and am not enough of a regular-book-reader to judge. Really. I can count the number fiction books I’ve read in my life with the fingers of my hands (ignoring Harry Potter, the Baby-Sitters’ Club series, Enid Blyton, and a variety of others from the children’s section).
My copy of the book has this version of the cover.I believe I watched and read The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s first novel before (although I can’t remember from whom I borrowed the book…), and loved it, of course. Splendid Suns is just as well-written, perhaps too well-written. There were so many times when I just had to close the book, put it down and shut my eyes from the sheer effect the events had on my emotions. This is not a happy tale. The life of the two main characters, the journey they went through, the state of the country they lived in, everything was so gut-wrenching, so devastating, but so believable.
It would open your eyes to the struggle of women, of mothers. Of the tragedy of war and impact of rulers and extremity of cultures. I was so relieved when I finished the book today (I suppose it took me about a week to read the whole thing, on and off), it was good that it ended. There are pleasant, un-sad parts too, of course, and here are some quotes I liked, on the pages that I remembered to mark:
On the streets, Mariam saw people stopping in their tracks. At traffic lights, faces emerged from the windows of cars, turned upward toward the falling softness. What was it about a season’s first snowfall, Mariam wondered, that was so entrancing? Was it the chance to see something as yet unsoiled, untrodden? To catch the fleeting grace of a new season, a lovely beginning, before it was trampled and corrupted?
“How did you know? Now, shut up. So are we going to the zoo or not?”
Laila smiled. “We’re going.”
“I missed you.”
There was a pause. Then Tariq turned to her with a half-grinning, half-grimacing look of distaste. “What’s the matter with you?“
“I want it, yes, I’m sure. But it’s more than that. I feel like I have to go back. Staying here, it doesn’t feel right anymore.”
Tariq looks at his hands, then back up at her.
“But only—only—if you want to go too.”
“Me?” he says. “I’ll follow you to the end of the world, Laila.“
It was also interesting to read about the cultural and religious issues, and being introduced to the languages too. I was surprised to see words that I thought were Malay, and indeed have been absorbed into my language, words like pahlawan and almari. I also loved some of the names in this story: Mariam, Laila, Aziza, Zalmai, Zaman. Aren’t they sweet?
Anyway, I’m still glad I read it, ’twas a good experience and I’d recommend it to anyone who wouldn’t mind an emotional roller-coaster ride. You would be thankful for your life. On a related note, this The Big Picture entry on Afghanistan would be good to take a look at if you decide to read the book. Kinda gives your mind an idea of the setting and all.
P.S. Thanks for the well-wishes, my hand appears to be slightly better now. More itchy, but less swollen.