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Review ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini

By Pranati Saikia

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful writer whose deep sensibility towards woman mind and sentiments really amazed me in his beautiful novel ‘A thousand splendid Suns’. His depiction of women characters and his perception of women psyche are convincingly realistic and immaculately ideal. Though the story of ‘A thousand splendid Suns’ deals with the lives of two Afghani women, yet the portrayal of woman mind carries so much reality and depth that it seems to be the story of every woman striving hard to survive with dignity in this male dominated society.

As the story is humanistic, it also explores human relationships in a broader perspective and throws light on the changing facets of these relationships which are fragile and ruled by capricious emotions. It reveals some of the bitter truths of human society based on shallow ideals and false beliefs by placing the characters in the extreme conditions of life. Hosseini has maintained the significance of humanity, love and inner strength in a war torn society like Afghanistan where human life has no value and blood relations are fragile under hostile conditions. In such society, humanity and love ultimately reigns and upholds human values and protect lives.

‘A thousand splendid Suns’ is set in the backdrop of constant political and civil strife in Afghanistan. It begins with the story of melancholy life of Mariam, an illegitimate daughter of a rich man Jalil and a housemaid. She lives with her cynical mother in a hut away from the society on the outskirts of Herat. Mariam’s isolated life has nothing to be happy about except her father Jalil’s weekly visits on every Thursday. Jalil would bring gifts for Mariam. His visits bring happiness and smiles for her. But Mariam’s embittered mother dislikes Jalil’s visits. For her, these visits are not out of genuine love for Mariam but his idea of penance for his shameful deed he committed. Despite her mother’s spiteful remarks and accusations, Mariam loves Jalil. His concern gives her a hope of happy life in future.

Jalil is one of the richest men of Herat. He owns a cinema hall, a clothing shop, three carpet stores and lands in Karokh and Farah. He has three wives and ten children. But Mariam has no familiarity with his legitimate family.

Then unfortunate strikes her happiness. When she turns fifteen, her doting father betrays her trust and doesn’t keep his promise of taking her to his cinema hall with her siblings together. Out of distress, Mariam leaves for Herat to meet Jalil in spite of her mother’s striken condition but she returns back emotionally wounded as Jalil hide himself inside the house and deny seeing her.

Consequently, when Mariam comes back, she finds her mother commits suicide.
Now, Mariam is desolate. On one of his wives suggestion, Jalil marries her off to a shoemaker Rasheed who is a widower and 30 years older to her. Rasheed is a rogue kind of man, annoyed by his own past. He says it embarrasses him, ‘to see a man who has lost control of his wife’ and claims her to wear burqa. Mariam’s conjugal life further deprived her of dignity when she suffers miscarriages one after another. Gradually, Rasheed treats her with contempt, subjecting her to scorn, ridicule, and insults, even ‘walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat.’ Mariam lives in fear of ‘his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies and sometimes not.’

The life of Hosseini’s other heroine Laila, begins after two decades in the war torn climate of Kabul. Laila is born to loving and educated parents. Her doting father wants her to go to university for higher education. Laila has a very protective boyfriend Tariq who has lost one of his legs in a landmine.

Laila’s mother, once an affectionate woman in her good days, suffers acute depression when her two sons were sent to fight the Soviets. As time passes on, children grow up and the Soviets are vanquished by the Mujahideen. Subsequently, Kabul soon turns into a war zone as the infighting between the warlords begins. Under such hostile conditions, Laila turns fifteen. Suddenly her life shatters when a rocket lobbed by one of the warlord factions attacks her house and kills her parents. Her boyfriend has already migrated to Pakistan with his parents to save their lives. Now Laila’s has no one to rely. Her life has ruined.

But the story takes a twist. This tragedy forces Laila to become a part of her neighbors, Mariam and Rasheed. When she discovers that she is pregnant with Tariq’s child, she agrees to the marriage proposal given by Rasheed, now 70 years old. Laila’s assent to Rasheed’s proposal disappoints Mariam and a hostile feeling arises in her against Laila. But Laila’s daughter Aziza’s birth develops a feeling of affection in Mariam. Soon Mariam and Laila become friends, defending one another from Rasheed’s attacks.

The story further follows the lives of these two women. Life becomes a never ending struggle for them against torment and insecurity. But under such drastic conditions, Laila’s lover Tariq emerges as a ray of hope. This hope infuses new strength in them. With this hope they surmount every impossible obstacle with courage.

The story is embedded with so much tragedy one after another that while reading it, I was moved to tears. Even after finished reading it, I was continued feeling some unknown grief inside me by recognizing the fragility of relations and human emotions. But it also mesmerized my inner being by advocating the fact that emotions of love and humanity are forever.

Hosseini’s language is simple with an enchanting flow that grips reader’s attention swiftly. The storyline is humanistic. He has adeptly demonstrated the fact that emotions rule and ruin the lives of people. He has beautifully illustrates the hope and despair of human lives.

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