A Thousand Splendid Suns

Just finished reading Khaled Hosseini ‘s second novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. While reading the book, I could not help but compare this novel with the author’s first novel “The Kite Runner” – which I thought was glorious. I understand that the comparison may not be fair, but it is inevitable.

Writing (or some would say prose) in this one, just like the author’s first novel is first rate. There is *much* more sadness in this novel and very few light-hearted/humorous moments though. There are some really heart warming and gut wrenching moments throughout the novel.

The story is about these 2 women in Afghanistan – Mariam and Laila and how their lives become intertwined inextricably. The story tracks their life through the modern history of Afghanistan – starting with the fall of Zahir Shah to the times when Afghanistan is freed from the reigns of Taliban. It vividly captures the indignity, both physical and mental, that women had to endure during vicious times in Afghanistan.

There are not too many twists in this novel and it is very linearly written in terms of chronology. It takes half the novel before the 2 heroines get to interact and from then on it is one incident after another where they have to endure various degrees of pain – both mental and physical. Towards the end, the kindness that Mariam extends towards Laila is enormous.

I think it is primarily a story of survival – what the human soul is willing to endure during inhumane times – how the mind starts to give in and tolerate vicious treatment , perhaps temporarily just to pull through, but always with the hope that things will get better – if not for themselves at least for their children. As much as the two women’s dignity and self-esteem is forcibly snatched, they seem to accept what fate has dealt to them, perhaps just to survive another day. But their core beliefs and humaneness still remains intact.

Compared to KiteRunner, I felt that the tightness in terms of plot was missing in this novel. I wished there was an alternate way that Mariam’s choice towards the end could have been handled or maybe it was just my wishful thinking.

Just as in KiteRunner, the ending was extremely poignant especially Laila’s visit to Mariam’s childhood home. Laila coming back to Afghanistan to start an orphanage and give back to her country, even though her country had not given her much except perhaps some positive childhood memories was a fitting end to the novel.

Through Laila’s father and Tariq – Laila’s lover, the author has managed to not paint a broad stroke that all men were evil during the vicious times in Afghanistan. Thus as much as the novel is about the two women and their survival spirit and the tribulations they undergo primarily at the hands of men, through these two men (Laila’s father and Tariq), the author has shown that one can maintain his/her sense of decency even if one is afforded the luxury to not exercise it.



  1. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 19, 2007, 11:18 am:

    Nice review Ganesh. Looks like Hosseini has pulled off a double with another great book. Many people are saying that it is as good or better notwithstanding some of the negatives you have described.

  2. Quote


    Even the one perceived negative that I have mentioned – lack of tightness in plot and perhaps too straight forward a story, exists only in comparison with the author’s first novel – “The Kite Runner”. Maybe, if I had read this novel first, I would not have even realized these.

    It is just that the Khaled Hosseini has set such a high bar with “The Kite Runner” that comparisons are inevitable, though it may not be fair.


  3. Quote

    Another great review Ganesh. I have been on two minds whether or not to read this book because I have heard mixed opinions. I guess it is very hard to live up to a book like Kite Runner.

    Now I feel I should read it. It would be interesting to see Afganisthan through the lives of women. They were the ones who bore the brunt of the Taliban reign.

  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 20, 2007, 7:00 am:

    Thanks Ganesh and Archana. Kite Runner seems to have set a high bar. As Archana says, now I have to add this one also to my todo list.

  5. Quote

    Actually i went to the library to find “The Kite runner” but it wasn’t available so ended up reading “A thousand Splendid Suns”.
    I am not an avid fiction reader but this book was so much heart wrenching i couldn’t drop the book down until the end. Although it is a very sad story involving the plight of woman in Afghanistan i loved the way the story ended on a positive note with a ray of hope.

    Awesome writing style every scene unfolded like watching a movie on screen with intricate details.

    Can’t wait to read Kite runner soon.

  6. Quote
    pk.karthik said December 26, 2007, 12:23 am:

    Sukumar ….Thanks to you and Ganesh I got hold of the book Kite Runner and finished reading it over the weekend..awedsome book the review was awesome……

  7. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 26, 2007, 2:40 am:

    Thanks Sujatha and Karthik.

  8. Quote
    Annapoorani said May 7, 2009, 6:24 pm:

    Yet another excellent review….After reading Hossein’s Kite runner,i wanted to read this book too…but till now havent read it….Again Afghan flavour in this book ….Story of 2 women this prompts me to read it…..
    Hope to grab the book sometime….

  9. Quote
    Ganesh said May 7, 2009, 8:50 pm:


    Please do. Am sure you will be moved by the book.

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