Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Sun (2007) is the story of the sufferings of an illegitimate girl against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in the late 80s. Al Nahian Avro reviews the book
IF YOU are looking for a book that will dig your heart with sharp words and will stick you with reading each and every detail thoroughly, then A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini would be undoubtedly the best book for you to go through.
Khaled Hosseini is an American novelist born in Kabul, Afghanistan. Hosseini entered in the arena of writings with his first bestselling novel The Kite Runner and later on his second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns that created a hullabaloo among the readers.
The story of this novel is based on the three-decade long history of Soviet invasion, civil war and brutal outrage of Taliban in Afghanistan. Hosseini portrays the story exclusively through the lives of two Afghani women Mariam and Laila who are related with each other by having the same husband who is Rasheed. Hosseini narrates the places with such an outstanding manner that you might visualise those places just by reading this masterpiece.
Hosseini knows well how to make a combination of different emotions skillfully to provide his readers with mixed feelings. Narrative style of Hosseini is outstanding and the story of this novel is captivating.
At the first chapter of this novel, the writer introduces a word harami which means an illegitimate child. Mariam is an illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Herat businessman Jalil who has three legal wives and nine children. Mariam’s nana (mother) was a housekeeper of Jalil’s house where she somehow had an intercourse with him, and the consequence was the birth of Mariam.
For skipping the bullies and hatred of local people for being a harami, Mariam lives alone with her Nana in a village namely Gul Daman, an outskirt of Herat and literally an inconspicuous place. Jalil visits Mariam once in a week. As a daughter longing for her father’s love, Mariam feels immensely high during the time she passes with her father.
But this feeling of highness doesn’t last longer for the absence of her father for the remaining days of a week. But Nana doesn’t like Jalil’s visit as it always stirs her scorn up for him. She doesn’t like to witness Mariam’s passing time with Jalil. She says, ‘Learn it now and learn it well, my daughter. Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.’
Hosseini describes the difficulties Mariam faces for being an illegitimate child. Even she is blamed by her nana also. She neither has a chance to go to school nor get to wander outside in a public place. She lives in a society where she can’t desire for love.
Soon after nana’s suicide, Mariam finds the sheer ebb of her father’s love to her and she is forced to marry a widower man Rasheed who is almost twenty-five years older than she. After marriage Rasheed takes her to his hometown Kabul. Rasheed always dreams to have a son while his dream shatters because of Mariam’s serial miscarriages. Soon Mariam’s life gets worse. For being unable to produce a baby Mariam is always lashed, scolded, oppressed by Rasheed. Hosseini neatly pictures such a society where women are considered only as a machine of producing babies and they are valueless if fail to produce one.
Another significant character of this novel is Laila, a daughter of a liberal man who is always supportive and optimistic about her education. Laila’s father says, ‘Marriage can wait, education can’t…Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila No chance.’
Laila is a pretty girl and a bright student. She has an intelligent, respectful and brave boyfriend Tariq who often takes Laila for hanging out together. Everything is going well. But Hosseini doesn’t stop to bring in tragic events. Soon we experience a formidable bomb attack which turns Laila’s house, in the blink of eyes, into a relic. Fortunately, Laila is rescued by her neighbor Rasheed but unfortunately she becomes an orphan by losing her parents.
Rasheed’s intention is to marry Laila. So he proposes her, and makes her aware about the situation that, if she doesn’t marry him and leaves, she might be abducted, raped and murdered. Discerning the vicissitude of bitter situation, Laila is convinced to marry Rasheed when she is fourteen.
First few days till the marriage, Rasheed treats Laila with respect and care thinking she would fulfil his desire by giving birth to a son which Mariam couldn’t. Laila starts sharing household chores with Mariam. After few months, she gives birth to a daughter, Aziza, who is actually not a daughter of Rasheed. Before leaving for Pakistan, Laila’s true love Tariq had an intercourse with Laila. Laila hides this fact and makes Rasheed the father of Aziza for thinking about her safety and skipping any difficulties in future. But soon Rasheed starts suspecting her, and a dark episode of misery comes into Laila’s life.
Being beaten, bullied, tortured by Rasheed for simple matters and even for no reason becomes a regular incident for both Laila and Mariam. As they are the victims of the same brutality, it takes no longer for Laila and Mariam to establish a friendly relationship gradually with each other. Later Laila gives birth to a son, Jalmai who gets actual affection from his father Rasheed.
Jalmai’s all imprudent and defiant activities are approved and even appreciated by Rasheed, he treats those activities as ‘A sign of intelligence’. This is Hosseini who subtly depicts a crystal clear picture of the biasness of a man — who adores and corroborates Taliban’s motive — only towards son, only towards male.
Rasheed’s house becomes a jail for Mariam and Laila as Taliban announce stringent rules and restrictions against going outside of home for women. While the Taliban is wielding all the power of Kabul, then only man is allowed to hold all the aces. There is no law, no school, no hospital, no freedom for women in Taliban’s world. Hosseini’s narrative about the bestiality of Taliban towards women would fuel ache in your heart and would throw you into the deep of this story to make you feel these situations by yourself.
In spite of all these sufferings, outrages and difficulties Mariam and Laila don’t miss out their inner resilience, don’t lose their hope for happy days either. Hosseini doesn’t tightwad to spend his beautiful sentences to delineate their rejoinders to their shared husband. Mariam and Laila’s affection and respect to each other and their protest against Rasheed might overwhelm readers each time more than before. However, gradually in the long run, they free themselves from inhumane Rasheed.
Hosseini keeps some surprises for the end. Surprises begin with the reunion of Tariq and Laila. When the Taliban's regime comes to an end, gradually the scenario of Afghanistan starts changing. New buildings, roads, parks, cinemas, schools are rebuilt. Later Tariq and Laila establish an orphanage which is the beginning of fulfilling Lila’s dream. The very ending of the novel is such a cinematic ending which might blow a pleasing wind to the reader's heart.
The author took the title of this novel form a poem of a 17th century Persian poet, Saeb-e-Tabrizi who used the phrase ‘a thousand splendid suns’ to express the beauty and glory of Afghanistan and its cultural attainments. However, Hosseini makes this novel as simple as possible by conveying each and every detail carefully.
Al Nahian Avro is a student of Noakhali Science & Technology University.
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