A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini ~Goodreads~
Published by Bloomsbury 2007
Paperback edition 384 pages ~The Book Depository~
A Thousand Splendid Suns documents Afghan history from before the Soviet war until after the Taliban rule. The violence that erupted from this period resulted in the inevitable abuse towards women.
The story demonstrates both the second class, serf-like treatment of Mariam and Laila and their oppression to physical and emotional brutality that was allowed, enabled and endorsed. The story brings out the bravery, kindness and self-resilience of these two women, despite the harsh reality of the story, the compassion shown by both women while trying to survive in an oppressive environment is greatly uplifting.
Studying religious studies at school made me interested in this book, and made me aware of the role of women in Afghan society and their religion of Islam. The fundamental and extremist views in this book were demonstrated vividly of how extreme groups took the literal text of their holy book to a severe level, where women were shown no respect. Women were baby making machines under the Taliban ruling, they were to stay at home to cook, clean and please their husbands. Their rights were simply taken away, and without any room for ambition. Khaled really brought these happenings to life and gave a sense of valiance and courage to the two women, a sense of girl power of sticking together and fighting through each day.
The story begins with the upbringing of Mariam a child of illegitimate birth raised in a small hut outside the city of Herat, living with her mother (or Nana). Laila a generation younger than Mariam who was born in Kabul where her father hopes she will contribute to Afghan society. These two women build a strong bond when their worlds collide because of three men; Jalil, Tariq and Rasheed.
Life with Rasheed for the two women turns into a time of mental and physical abuse, and at times it was hard to keep on reading. It made me wish something awful to happen to Rasheed for his unforgivable actions towards these innocent women. I was really touched by the sheer bravery from these two women and what they went through, from the public humiliation of being forced to wear a burqa so no other man could see their faces and the punishments for cooking a meal wrong was just astonishing. I remember studying the Taliban in school and learning of their belieds and punishments to women, and you know when you just have to pinch yourself and go wait, men actually did/do this to women? It just really made me think of just how we can’t possibly imagine what it must be like.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the story has a big place in my heart. Khaled has such a way with words and delivering real life happenings into a story that gives you a sense of realism and honesty. I like that it wasn’t just a story, but an element of what has happened in history that should be addressed in our lives instead of being shielded from us.