Over the summer I decided to be slightly more proactive on the blogging front. Not just posting random things (although random things are fab), but having some kind of Thing that I do regularly. Having found a blog that I really like, I discovered a book review linky thing. It’s not yet running this month, but in the meantime I may as well take a shot at a few reviews! Through reading book reviews over at my new favourite blog, I have been inspired to read books more carefully so that I actually absorb more than just a plot line and events. So, here goes! Book review number one…
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Whilst on holiday this summer, my sister was ploughing through her books. She read 12 in 2 weeks (!!), so about 10 days in I figured it was time to join in. Having just re-read all of the Harry Potter books (what a series), I chose a slightly more serious book that both my mum and sister had recommended. I’ve read A Thousand Splendid Suns (another of Hosseini’s books), but in my classic skim-reading style, so whilst I can remember the storyline, I just know that I missed so much – even more so now I’ve read this one and can see that he packs so much into his books! I resolved to read this book properly, not skipping any paragraphs that I deemed irrelevant. Let’s hope I can remember it 3 weeks later [now 5…takes me a while to finalise a draft apparently]!
And The Mountains Echoed is set in Afghanistan, with the intertwining narratives spanning a period of over 50 years. We follow the story of brother and sister Abdullah and Pari through the eyes of a whole host of characters. This was a totally unexpected aspect for me, but I loved it, and rather than making things confusing and hard to follow, I found that it really enriches the story. It’s like a big puzzle as we piece together what happened to little 3-year old Pari after she is given/sold to/adopted by a rich family in Kabul whilst her beloved older brother is forced to return to his impoverished village with their father. However, very little (if any – I may be misremembering this though) of the book is written from Abdullah’s perspective, but more so from Pari’s. We learn about the course of events through others: their step-uncle, the son of a neighbour in Kabul, a war criminal’s son, a Greek doctor…
What I loved about the different perspectives was the additional insight you get to people’s lives. I felt as though they were real, even though it’s a non-fiction book. Some characters had seemingly tenuous links to Abdullah and Pari, and yet their contributions fitted so well into the big picture. I loved the light bulb moments where you realise how characters are linked to Abdullah and Pari’s stories. However, it felt like Hosseini wanted to do more than tell us a story of a brother-sister relationship. By incorporating so many lives into his book, he shows us what the lives of real people probably were and are like. Whilst we see glimpses of the conflict, it is covered at a people level; there’s very little reference to politics. What we experience are the probable real-life effects on the lives of people: those who fled to Europe, those who stayed, those forced into refuge camps in neighbouring countries. And yet you don’t feel like you’re reading some textbook – this is not the focus of the book, rather it is cleverly and even beautifully interwoven into the story.
According to book review gurus on the internet, I should say what I didn’t like about the book. Nothing sticks out in hindsight (I knew I should have written this sooner!)…although for someone like me who likes to know the end to each little subplot, it was a little frustrating that all the ends aren’t tied up. Perhaps the links to the real-life situation make this impossible, and after all, it isn’t that kind of book!
Basically, a great read. Although it deals with real, complex issues and is slightly harrowing in places, Hosseini’s writing is really enjoyable.