Saturday, September 27, 2008

One could not count the moons...

I've just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and before that The Kite Runner. They are two very splendid books.

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful storyteller. He's not the best writer, but I couldn't tell you what I don't like in his writing style because the story and the characters are so overwhelming. I think that's probably what defines most of the really popular books these days--J.K. Rowling, for example, is not that great a writer (some writers of fanfic are better at romance than she is), but she's a great storyteller, and is therefore loved.

One has the sense, in both these books, that the author knows exactly who his characters are. He knows who they are and what they want and what all their faults are. That last is especially true of Amir, in The Kite Runner, and Baba too.

The Kite Runner is more satisfying in terms of a well crafted plot coming together. A Thousand Splendid Suns is more satisfying in terms of the characters and their interweaving lives. The Kite Runner is simply so perfectly circular. Everything has its consequence, and the consequences are often played out in ways that are really very ironic. It has a good sense of poetic justice. That was what impressed me most about this book. The thing I spent the whole book wondering was how much of it was autobiographical. I'd be interested to learn a bit more about Khaled Hosseini's own life.

I didn't much like the structure of A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was too broken up--first the entire long section about Mariam, then the long section about Laila, and there weren't enough hints that their stories were going to come together. (That's something I've noticed generally about this author--I never expect what's coming.) That said, I loved these characters. Mariam not so much until she was older, but Laila always. I'm a hopeless romantic, so I was always rooting for Laila and Tariq. All the characters go through so much, the entire goal of the book has to be to make things come out more or less all right, and that's what keeps you reading.

Reading these books has made me much more aware of the fact that all the cultures of the Middle East are really very fascinating, and I was especially interested in all the hints of the languages.

Anyway, I'm glad to have read them. Next I'm reading Mansfield Park. Now for something completely different.

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