Khaled Hosseini:A thousand splendid suns
this books gets 9 out of 10.
housseinis writing technique is totally absorbing and lucid.
amazing how much similiarities afghan and indian cultures have.
the world got a lot of coverage about afghanistan from western media in the lpast years.
this was the first i read from an afghan.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
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A Thousand Splendid Suns
First edition cover Author Country Language Genre(s) (and audio CD) Publication date , Media type Print ( & ) and audio CD Pages 384 pp (first edition, hardcover) (first edition, hardcover) A Thousand Splendid Suns (: دو صد خورشیدرو) is a by author , his second, following his debut, (2003). The book was released on , , and received favorable prepublication reviews from , , , and , as well as reaching #2 on 's bestseller list before its release.
The title of the book refers to a 17th century poem of the Persian poet Saib-e-Tabrizi called Kabul. The poem is translated into English by Josphine Davis. The English translation is not a literal translation of the original.
Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust
My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!
Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan
Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls
Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves enflamed, cascading from their throats
And I, I sing in the gardens of Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures
The novel is divided into four parts. The first part focuses exclusively on Mariam, the second and fourth parts focus on Laila, and the third part switches focus between Mariam and Laila with each chapter.
 Part One
Fate Of Illegitimate Mariam The novel opens with the introduction of Mariam. She is 5 years old and lives with her mother (Nana) in a small hut (kolba). She was born out of wedlock after a wealthy business man (Jalil) slept with his house maid (Nana) and got her pregnant but did not marry her. Jalil and his two sons build a kolba in the outskirts of in western Afghanistan, near the village stream for Nana to live in and have the child. From a very young age, Mariam is constantly and bitterly reminded by her mother Nana that she is a harami (bastard) and that she is destined to suffer and endure all her life, just like Nana has done. Mariam spends her lonely childhood waiting for her father to visit her every Thursday, she gets lessons in reading and writing the Koran from Mullah Faizullah, an elderly, kind-hearted cleric. Mariam has often heard of her father's other wives and 9 legitimate children, who live with him at his lavish home in Herat, but has never visited them due to the stigma of her being an illegitimate child. She secretly dreams of going and living with her father and her brothers and sisters but does not dare to voice her wishes due to Nana's bitter dislike towards Jalil.
On her fifteenth birthday, Mariam asks her father to take her to see at the movie theater that he owns. Mariam also wants to meet her brothers and sisters who live with Jalil. Nana is against the idea and begs Mariam not to go anywhere. Jalil asks Mariam to wait for him and says he will pick her up, but the time comes and goes and Jalil does not turn up. Hurt and upset by his rejection, Mariam takes a bold step and travels to Herat alone and finds her father's house herself despite her mother, Nana, mentioning that she will die if Mariam goes to she leaves. Upon arriving at Jalil's lavish house, Mariam catches a glimpse of Jalil through the window. (important because of use in connection towards the end of the book) Jalil does not allow her in the house, and she stubbornly sleeps outdoors on the porch hoping that her father will let her in.
In the morning, Jalil's driver insists on dropping Mariam back to the kolba. She gives up and returns home - only to find that her mother has committed suicide by hanging herself. Mariam is distraught and has to go and live in her father's house, where she feels isolated and spends most of her time alone in her room. Jalil and his wives quickly arrange for her to be married away to an older named Rasheed, who is a middle-class shoemaker in . Despite Mariam's protests, she and Rasheed marry, and before they leave for Kabul, Mariam disowns Jalil, telling him never to come visit her.
In Kabul, Mariam begins adjusting to her new life as the wife of a man she barely knows. After initially staying out of her way giving her time to adjust, Rasheed soon makes it clear that he is not running a hotel and Mariam will have to start doing the housework and cooking. Mariam soon becomes pregnant, and Rasheed, having lost his own son in a drowning accident years earlier, is overjoyed and hopes for a boy. But Mariam suffers a and slowly her marriage takes a turn for the worse. Rasheed is no longer cordial to her, and verbally and physically abuses her; the abuse worsens over the years as Mariam goes through several failed pregnancies.
 Part Two
In Part 2 we are introduced to Laila. Down the street from Rasheed and Mariam's house, a beautiful baby girl - named Laila - is born to the ethnic Tajik couple - Hakim, a progressive-minded high school teacher, and Fariba who already has two sons, Ahmad and Noor. Hakim encourages Laila in her education and aspires her to do something for her country when she grows up. Unfortunately things are out of her hands.
Over the years, Laila's two older brothers have joined the fighting the . Laila is now a young girl and lives a lonely childhood with her quiet father and a mother who forever talks about and reminisces the sons who are at war, and makes plan for their futures when they are back, almost forgetting that she has another child that lives with her - unloved and forgotten. Laila's childhood companion is Tariq, a young boy in the neighbourhood, who has lost 1 leg in the war, and is often made fun of by the local boys.
One day the dreaded news arrive that Ahmad and Noor have become shaheed (martyrs) in the war. Fariba is inconsolable. She constantly mourns the loss of her two sons, and spends most of her time confined in her room hoping to see the day that their sons could not see. During this time, Tariq and Laila grow closer and develop a deep love for each other.
After the victory of the Mujahideen, comes to Afghanistan, and Kabul is bombarded by rocket attacks. Laila's school friend is killed in the attacks and several houses in the neighbourhood destroyed. Hakim is forced to stop Laila from going to school and homeschools her instead. Tariq's family eventually decides to leave Kabul, and Tariq begs Laila to come with him, he asks her to marry him and they can get away from all the bloodshed. Laila refuses on the grounds that her father has no one left, but her("sometimes Laila, it feels you're all I have left.") The emotional farewell between Laila and Tariq leads to them sleeping together in Laila's house.
Seventeen days after Tariq's departure, due a bullet passing inches away from Laila, Laila's father convinces Fariba that it's time to leave Kabul. Overjoyed at the possibility of seeing Tariq again, Laila starts packing, however, a stray rocket destroys the house; while Laila survives with some injuries, both of her parents are killed and their home is destroyed.
 Part Three
While recovering from her injuries, Laila discovers that she is in Rasheed and Mariam's home. It turns out that Rasheed entered the house after the bombing and took her out of the rubble.
One day a man calling himself Abdul turns up at their doorstep asking for Laila - he tells her that he met Tariq in a hospital; Tariq, according to Abdul, was badly injured, lost his other leg, and eventually passed away. Tariq asked Abdul to meet Laila and tell her how much he cared for her. Laila has now lost everyone she ever had in her life.
Meanwhile Mariam notices a change in Rasheed's behaviour, he is being very cordial to Laila, talking about politics and other things. With a shock Mariam realises Rasheed's intentions towards the young Laila. Rasheed orders Mariam to give Laila a deadline for marrying him. He claims that as he saved her life and she has no where else to go, he is actually doing her a favour by marrying her. Laila says yes immediately, having recently realized she is pregnant - with Tariq's child.
Despite Mariam's severe dislike to the idea, Rasheed does not waste any time, he marries the young and attractive girl, and immediately consummates the marriage, meanwhile Laila hopes that she can pass the child off as his. Upon discovering Laila's pregnancy, Rasheed is overwhelmed with hope of having another son. He treats Laila like royalty and calls her the malika (queen) of the house and treats Mariam like a slave and orders her to obey Laila and her needs. However, in spring of 1993, Laila gives birth to a baby girl, Aziza, and Rasheed abandons his initially friendly behavior towards Laila.
When baby Aziza cries at night, Rasheed's dislike towards the baby intensifies and he kicks Laila and Aziza out of the room. After an initially hostile relationship, Mariam and Laila eventually become confidantes when Rasheed becomes enraged at Laila for giving into his sexual demands, and puts the blame on Mariam. As he goes into Mariams room with a belt to beat her, Laila follows begging him to stop. He ignores her and raises his hand, but Laila grabs his arm, crying out that he has won. Rasheed feels triumphant as Laila follows him back to their bedroom. The next day, Mariam admits to Laila that no one has ever stood up for her before. Laila asks her to take a cup of tea together, and the women begin a ritual. Aziza becomes very close to Mariam as she grows up, and Mariam treats Laila like a daughter. Laila asks Mariam if she can braid Mariams hair, and Mariam tells Laila about her child hood, her father and her own mother. Laila confides in Mariam about Aziza's true father, and explains why she married Rasheed. She tells her that she has been planning to run away from Rasheed and has been stealing money from his purse and begs Mariam to come with her. Mariam agrees. They leave Kabul for Peshawar, Pakistan, but they are betrayed at the bus station by a man they thought they could trust, arrested, and returned to Rasheed. An enraged Rasheed severely beats the two women, locks them up in different rooms and deprives them of food and water for several days, almost killing Aziza and threatening the women never to try such an antic again or he will kill them.
A few years later, Laila is pregnant again. She contemplates abortion, because she is not sure she can love Rasheed's child, but cannot bring herself to do it and keeps the baby. By this time, the have risen to power in Afghanistan. They have banned television, movies and books other than the , and women are not allowed to work, wear fashionable clothes, or even wear nail polish. They have also made it difficult (if not impossible) for women to get medical attention, so when Laila goes into labor, it takes the family some time to find a hospital that is willing to admit Laila. In addition, the hospital that finally takes Laila in is desperately lacking in supplies, as the Taliban has essentially prevented those hospitals that admit women from getting them. When the baby turns out to be , the doctor informs Laila that they must perform a in order to deliver the baby. However, Laila has to endure the procedure without any , because the hospital has none to give her. When she is told, Laila screams at them, "Then cut me open! Cut me open but give me my baby!". Mariam is amazed at the depth of love that a mother can feel. The love she has for Laila and her children. Mariam stays with her for the procedure, and after always admired Laila for how much time passed before she screamed.
With the baby's birth, Rasheed's dream of having a son finally comes true. Laila and Rasheed name the baby boy Zalmai. Rasheed adores Zalmai and is very partial towards his son. A few years after Zalmai is born, a drought sets in, which eventually leads to widespread hunger and food shortages. When Rasheed's shop burns down in a fire, the family is thrust into destitution. As their financial situation worsens, despite Laila's protests, Aziza is sent to an orphanage several kilometers away, whilst the remaining family survives on very little or no food. Laila tries to visit Aziza regularly, but starts becoming be difficult because the Taliban do not allow women to be outside unaccompanied by a male family member. Rasheed accompanies her the first few times, but after a while, he complains that it is too hard of a walk and refuses to. Laila often tries to go by herself to visit Aziza at the orphanage, but, more often than not, she is beaten and sent home by the Taliban. She wears several layers despite the heat to avoid getting beaten badly and tries new streets to get to Aziza. There is little food and Rasheed finds himself reduced to working as a at a .
Then one day, a man with a limp appears at Laila's doorstep - Laila cannot believe her eyes and runs towards him - it is Tariq.
Tariq and Laila talk whilst Mariam takes Zalmai to another room. It is soon discovered that Rasheed paid the man (Abdul) who told Laila that Tariq was dead, so she would give up on Tariq and marry him. Tariq and Laila are reunited, and Tariq explains how he and his parents became in , his parents dying from disease and Tariq sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for smuggling. He further tells Laila of how he has found a home and employment at a hotel in , near . She tells Tariq that he is Aziza's father and asks him to return the next day so she can take him to meet his little girl.
That day Rasheed returns home from work, little Zalmai unwittingly tells his father about the male visitor with a limp. Rasheed is enraged beyond limit, he locks up a crying Zalmai in a room and starts to savagely beat Laila with his belt and reveals her that he knew all along about her harami child (Aziza), in his rage he tries to strangle her, but Laila fights back. Mariam cannot watch this anymore and realises that Rasheed really will kill Laila this time. She runs to the shed and returns with a shovel. Mariam calls his name so he will see it coming. And with all her strength, Mariam kills Rasheed.
When Laila gains consciousness, she sees Rasheed's dead body and Mariam sitting nearby. Mariam begs Laila to leave Kabul with Tariq, Aziza, and Zalmai. Laila states she will only go if Mariam will come as well. Mariam says she cannot. Laila initially refuses to leave without Mariam and begs her to come, but Mariam insists that the Taliban will be after them forever if they find a murdered man and two missing wives. Laila reluctantly leaves for Pakistan with the children and Tariq, where they marry and settle down . Mariam turns herself in to the Taliban, confesses to killing Rasheed, and is executed in public. When Mariam is led to the block she becomes nervous, but simply thinks of Laila and her children and their freedom. The executioner orders her to place her head down, and for the last time Mariam does what she is told. Mariam is at peace when she dies. She has, with Laila and her children, loved more deeply than she had imagined, and most surprising to her, that love has been returned.
 Part Four
In (almost two years after the fall of the Taliban to US/European forces), Laila and Tariq decide to return to Afghanistan. They stop in the village near Herat where Mariam was raised, and discover a package that Mariam's father had left behind for her: a videotape of , her share of the family inheritance, and a note from Jalil explaining how much regret he felt in marrying her off just to save face. They return to Kabul and help renovate the orphanage. It is implied that they used the money that was supposed to be Mariam's share of the inheritance in order to do this. Laila also becomes a teacher at the orphanage, seen teaching a class of . The book ends with a reference to them debating new names for Laila's new baby, but they're only debating male names, because Laila already knows the name if it's a girl. It is implied that the name would be Mariam.
In order of appearance:
- Mariam, an ethnic born in Herat, 1959. She is the illegitimate child of Jalil and Nana, and suffers shame throughout her childhood because of the circumstances of her birth. She is executed in public at the end of part three.
- Nana is Mariam's mother, who used to be a servant in Jalil's house and had an affair with him. She hangs herself when Mariam is fifteen, after she (Mariam) journeys to Jalil's house on her birthday, which Nana perceives to be betrayal.
- Mullah Faizullah is Mariam's elderly Koran teacher and friend. He dies of natural causes in .
- Jalil is Mariam's father, a wealthy man who had three wives before he had an affair with Nana. He marries Mariam to Rasheed after Nana's death, but later regrets sending her away. Long after leaving Herat, Mariam finds out that he died of natural causes in .
- Laila is an ethnic , born in 1978, she is a beautiful and intelligent girl coming from a working class family when first introduced. Her life becomes tied to Mariam's when she marries Rasheed as his second wife.
- Hakim is Laila's father. He is a well-educated and progressive school teacher. He is killed in a rocket explosion along with Fariba.
- Fariba is Laila's mother. In Part One, during her brief meeting with Mariam, she is shown to be cheerful, but her happy nature is brutally disrupted when her two sons, Ahmad and Noor, leave home to go to war and are later killed. She spends nearly all of her time in bed mourning her sons until the Mujahideen are victorious. She is killed in a rocket explosion along with Hakim.
- Rasheed is an ethnic , a shoemaker, and the antagonist of the novel. He marries Mariam through an arrangement with Jalil, and later marries Laila as well. After years of towards the two women, Mariam bludgeons Rasheed to death with a shovel during a violent struggle.
- Tariq, an ethnic Pashtun born in 1976, is a boy who grew up in Kabul with Laila. They eventually evolve from best friends to lovers, and are married and expecting a child by the end of the novel.
- Aziza is the daughter of Laila and Tariq, conceived when Laila was 15 and causing her to marry Rasheed in very early pregnancy after Tariq and his family decide to leave Kabul. Aziza is born in the spring of 1993 and becomes a peacemaking figure between Mariam and Laila, when her cries for Mariam's attention trigger Mariam's maternal instinct and respect for Laila.
- Zalmai, born in September 1997, is Laila and Rasheed's spoiled son. Despite the conditions presented onto his mother and figurative aunt (Mariam), Zalmai idolizes Rasheed and is unaware of the fact that Mariam killed him. At the end of the novel, Zalmai continuously asks about Rasheed to Laila, who lies to him saying he simply left for some time. After initially blaming Tariq for his father's mysterious disappearance, he comes to accept him as a father-figure.
 Critical reaction
- 's Lev Grossman named it at number three in the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2007, and praised it as a "dense, rich, pressure-packed guide to enduring the unendurable."
- Jonathan Yardley said on the : "Just in case you're wondering whether Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is as good as The Kite Runner, here's the answer: No. It's better. "