Mike Recommends: A Thousand Splendid Suns

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

A story of two women, Mariam and Laila who are brought together through tragedy in each of their lives, and must face the torment of Rasheed who marries them both.

Set in Afghanistan, the tale is threaded into the history of the country from the Russian occupation to the fall of the Taliban.

I love this book. An emotive force drives the narrative that is grim and gritty yet manages to hold hope always within the story, though the despair should crush it to dust in the fist Khaled wields.

The story arc is better than The Kite Runner, Khaled's first book. (Although that book is brilliant) Probably due to The Kite Runner being semi autobiographical with a plot twist at the end bolted on for fear of the story not standing on its own merit.

Khaled's strengths lie in his ability to make you care about his characters and his ability to immerse you in events with deft touches of his pen, rather than over doing the prose.
For example:

It hurts. It hurts to breathe. It hurts everywhere.
A glass of water. A pink pill.
Back to the darkness.

He also takes you, like in The Kite Runner, into a world normally only viewed through news broadcasts. The culture and devastation of Afghanistan are brought to life through the simple tale of these two ordinary women. And whilst Rasheed covers their eyes in the mesh of the burqa, Khaled opens our eyes to the hearts within Afghanistan that beat with the same rhythm in hope and tragedy as in us all.

My only slight criticisms are Khaled's use of adverbs where his writing is strong enough to hold up without their support, and I did loose connection with Mariam as a character for a while in the early bit of Part 3. He also succumbs to leaving the odd cliffhanger at the end of a chapter (chapter 16 for example) that might suit Dan Brown but seem out of place here.

So if you want a book that is beautiful, tragic and well written, read A Thousand Splendid Suns this summer.

Khaled Hosseini is involved with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
To help or learn more about UNHCR visit:

Click to go to Author Profile

Click to find out more about Khaled Hosseini & his books.

Click to read Amazon's interview with Khaled.

Click to read the first chapter.

Next month: Kurt Vonnegut's classic: SlaughterHouse 5.


Random Magus said...

I bought a copy and unfortunately left it at my mom's house. Now I'll buy another one in Dubai

Mike French said...

Lucky Mum! I got my copy as a birthday pressie from my Mum in June after I raved about the Kite Runner with her.

Maw Books said...

I just finished reading this book this week. I loved it!! I have not yet Kite Runner so I can't compare. This is one of the best books that I have read this year. It lives up to all of its hype!

Mike French said...

maw books: Yep it's great, not my fav read of 2007 (which was Remainder by Tom McCarthy), but damn close!