Monday, June 25, 2007

'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini

25 June 2007

My knowledge of the recent history of Afghanistan was fairly limited before reading 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini - but I knew it hadn't been a good few decades. In Hosseini's impressive novel, the narrator looks back to his childhood in 1970s Kabul from the vantage point of present-day San Francisco. The early chapters, dealing with his privileged upbringing and his close friendship with his father's servant's son, have the same end-of-an-era feel as the Shanghai of JG Ballard's 'Empire of the Sun' or Kazuo Ishiguro's 'When We Were Orphans'. But here the comfortable childhood is shattered by the Russians rather than the Japanese and then things just get worse as the Russians are followed by the Northern Alliance and then the Taliban. 'The Kite Runner' is an old-fashioned epic novel - a family saga cataloguing dark years, tragedy and violence. It is a gripping, if sometimes disturbing, read - extremely well-written and intricately plotted with some great iconic characters. Occasionally Hosseini overdoes the neat little links - almost every significantly described item seems bound to make a crucial reappearance later in the story - but this is a minor criticism for a stunning debut novel which is crying out to be filmed.



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