Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The first time I heard about this book must have been atleast 10 years ago. Ever since I have been hearing about this book every now and then. For last many years mainly non – fiction has interested me so I suppose this had remained in my ‘to be read’ for a long time. Thanks to the book club that I am a members of, that I finally read it this month.

Synopsis – The Kite Runner is a book about almost coming of age (literally and figuratively) of the protagonist through one incident in his life which tests him and how he redeems himself later . Its also a story about two friends , a story about a father and son from son’s viewpoint, all of this, against the socio-econo-political backdrop of Afghanistan. All the other circumstances move around the 3 central characters. Amir, the protagonist, Hassan, his close friend and servant and Amir’s father. Amir, who looses his mother at birth, craves for the attention and approval from his father who is the absolute ideal in his eyes and who in turn seems distant towards himself (Amir). His only confidant is Hassan, who braves it up for Amir many a times through thick and thin with loyalty that is fierce as well as servile, that is as innocent as it is absolute, that only children can offer. But Amir fails his friendship for a choice he makes for personal gratification and that choice haunts him for the rest of his life. It strains his ties with the others, including his father. While Amir goes through mental turmoil, Afghanistan goes through political coup that changes the socio – economical landscape of the country forever and forces Amir to leave the country and leave his past behind. Years later Amir is forced to revisit his past and gets an opportunity to redeem himself.

Paras below contain spoilers.

Like many peals of the onion, this book is about several things. It narrates the realities of Afghanistan before and after Taliban came in force, the social hierarchy and discrimination based on it – economic and religious. The book depicts vividly, plight of the servile classes as well as those belonging to a marginalized religion, the status of women in Afghan society, situation due to cold war, the Russian interference, post Taliban takeover, exploitation of masses and even the question of faith etc. It paints a picture of Afghanistan that was much more liberal in the past.

The book describes nature, places and landscapes quite vividly . Author’s style of writing is very lucid. I enjoyed reading this book. It is fast paced and doesn’t have many dull moments. Some scenes, dialogues stood out to me forcefully. Like the one where Amir discusses concept of sin with his father, description of Hassan’s expressions while being oppressed by Asef, where Amir throws a pomegranate on Hassan’s chest and asks him to retaliate, description of travelling in a heavy transport vehicle to cross the Afghan border and so on. However, it read to me almost like a screenplay and I felt it was written with an eventual movie in mind. Some incidents were too ‘filmy’ (a term we use to denote semblance with Bollywood movies) – such as Amir being hurt on his lip and being reminded him of Hassan’s cleft lip, that Amir was childless – it almost was clear even while Sohrab wasn’t introduced that Amir is going to adopt or grow close to or see his own child in Hassan’s child. , later Soharb too working for Asef by coincidence is a ‘filmy’ coincidence. That he has to go through agony similar to his father, that he saves Amir from Asef in similar manner as Hassan once did etc. Also the book is all praise about US and negative about Russia’s role in the Afghan situation. While Russia’s role has been manifold, US hasn’t been entirely blameless as per the popular media that I was exposed to as a reader of international news. As a result I felt this book was not honest on that account. That it was written keeping the US audience in mind. All in all, not a great book to get a lowdown on what exactly is the political situation in Afghanistan etc. but as a fiction with certain realistic elements, it is a lucid read. Sort of populist -pulp fiction version of the Afghan conflict in the middle of a personal story.

Overall rating – 3.5/5

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