Recently Reading: The Kite Runner

Friday, 21 August 2015

I read Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns years ago and was incredibly touched but have only just read his debut novel, the hugely successful The Kite Runner and again was moved by the plight of the characters against the larger backdrop of the hell of war.

Told from the perspective of Amir, the wealthy, pampered son of a respected businessman the book spans three decades and takes us from a prosperous Afhanistan to Pakistan, to America and back again, Afghanistan by then almost unrecognisable as a country ravaged by war and currently under Taliban rule. Amir, who loves storytelling and goes on to become a writer, is presented as a tender and thoughtful child much to the disappointment of his father but he is also jealous, cruel and cowardly as many young boys can be. This side of his character is shown almost always in respect to Hassan, the Hazara servant boy he has been raised alongside. The book really delves into themes of the father - son relationship, of feeling inadequate and the desperation to make a parent proud at any cost.

After a dramatic turn of events with a local bully, things are never the same for Amir and Hassan...and when Amir and his father escape Afghanistan before things turn really nasty, he is running away from so much more than just political unrest. Amir would likely never return to Afghanistan but many years later he has to...and it may just provide the redemption for the guilt that has riddled him for years. I don't want to give too much away but some of the story is heartbreaking, a country corrupted and destroyed. I found the experience of Amir and his father landing in America as migrants so interesting and relevant with all the migrant stories in the news at the moment. Having held positions of wealth and power, to see the characters adapt to their new lives as a student and his rich father now holding a menial job..the inner strength needed was painted beautifully.

Hosseini writes Afhganistan and the Afghan people beautifully, almost lyrically, whether he is describing the community coming together for the local tradition of kite racing, the wedding customs or even the decaying neighbourhoods when he returns many years later; every word is laden with reverence and respect for the country and its people. If the book is a love song to Afghanistan, it is one of heartbreak; when the relationship goes bad and is almost completely destroyed...but the ending has the tiniest flicker of hope.

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