I bought this book fully expecting something very like The Kite Runner. In fact, I don’t think I bothered to read the blurb on the back page beyond ‘By the author of The Kite Runner.’ Having read it – both book and back page – I am a little disappointed.
Mr Hosseini’s main characters in this book are female – Mariam and Laila – while those of The Kite Runner are male. I’m never very sure about male authors writing female characters and I’m sure that speaks volumes of my own prejudices. In my eyes, Mr Hosseini struck perfection in The Kite Runner. This time around, however, he has just missed the mark and I can only attribute the slippage to those female characters.
The story is engaging and exquisitely plotted. The first shift from Mariam to Laila left me feeling a little lost but actually sits well within the overall structure of the book (so do read past this). Some of the scenes are brutal but, I think, each was necessary in this retelling of Afghanistan’s story, from a woman’s point of view.
The overall, lingering effect is one of sadness. I have, however, been educated as well as entertained and I think that this is likely Mr Hosseini’s intention.
(Reviewed on 13th July 2009)