This book is life-changing. I don’t say this lightly, it is genuinely life-changing. I think this is the book that really made the cultural restrictions women face stand out to me. It changed the way I viewed the world, especially when concerning Afghanistan as I had never read a novel concerning that region. I will summarise what the novel is about, but it is one of those novels where it is painful to recall what happens in it. I can say that it has a happy ending, but after much pain – bittersweet, I guess.
Set in Afghanistan, the story brings forward the reality women face in Afghanistan. Mariam and Laila are the two protagonists of the novel, set a generation apart, but their stories become entwined once they marry the same man, Rasheed. Women are and were treated like dirt in Afghanistan, with the gender differences between males and females elevated in society, both in the novel and reality. It is not easy to fully explain and insert the historical background of a country into a novel, so we cannot and should not bash Hosseini for that, and quite frankly, I think Hosseini did a damn good job. The novel is rather about the journey experienced by the characters involved and standing up to the patriarchal society which exists at a time where the Taliban were rising in strength and Kabul was in chaos.
The grittiness of the book shows the harshness many women have faced in society. It does not matter if it was in the middle east or the western world. Women have been defamed since the beginning of history. A Thousand Splendid Suns does not shy away from this reality but rather empowers the women within the novel. Rasheed, the main antagonist in the novel, is the creepiest man you can imagine. He made my skin crawl: he is that disgusting and repulsive.
Hand on my heart, I can say I’ve read this book a good amount of times. It isn’t an easy read, that’s for sure, but the storyline is magnificent. Once you pick it up, it is truly difficult to put it down. If you want a challenging read and to broaden your horizons, then this is the book for you. Hosseini has a knack for taking the reader along for the journey and he has never failed me as an avid book reader. If you have read the book, let me know what you think in the comments!