Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 4088 24856
Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner was one of those books I felt I should read, but didn’t expect to enjoy. I began the book expecting to find a decidedly average piece of popular fiction with a slightly heavy theme. What I got was one of the most beautifully written contemporary novels I have ever read, popular fiction or not. One of the few things I knew about this book prior to reading it is that it tells the story of a native Afghan forced to flee his native country during the Russian occupation of the 1970’s but later returns to the country, for personal reasons, during the Taliban occupation. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover it contains one of the most heart-warming friendships I’ve ever encountered in a novel- that of Amir, the protagonist, and his friend Hassan.
What I loved about the friendship between the two boys was that it dared to be different, and not just because Amir is a rich Pashtun and Hassan is his Hazara servant. Whilst boundary-crossing friendships are not exactly scarce in literature, this friendship is unusual for reasons going beyond the social differences between the characters involved. It’s different because the characters are friends who are not really, genuinely friends. By this I don’t mean that Hosseini builds up his novel to a big reveal when it becomes apparent the charcters secretly didn’t like or respect eachother all along; I simply mean it is a friendship that makes readers resent Amir slightly, as it is immediately apparent Hassan cares for him much more than he cares for Hassan. Hosseini perfectly captures what it’s like to love and respect someone without receiving that same level of admiration in return. Readers will resent Amir and the way he feels ashamed to be seen with his friend when others are around, but will find Hassan both brave and stupid for the way he learns to accept this and does not allow it to dampen his affection for his friend. I won’t say too much about the outcome of the friendship to avoid spoiling the novel, although I will say that this only serves to make the later events of the novel even more heartbreaking. Amir does manage to redeem himself towards the the novel, as he does return to Afghanistan for the right reasons, yet readers will still find themselves wishing it was him who’d stayed in the war-torn country while his rich friend escaped unhurt to America and found a nice wife.
With regards to the plot of this novel, it was considerably more complex than the emotional manipulation I had been anticipating. Not only did I learn considerable amounts about the history and culture of Afghanistan, a country I have always wanted to visit, I received an insight into how it must feel to be affected by a refugee crisis, or to see your home country blighted by war and terrorism. The Kite Runner feels particularly relevant when news outlets are currently publishing photos of the Syrian refugee crisis and the impact terrorism has had on the country. For most people it is, thankfully, unimaginable to think of having to up sticks to a new country and learn how to reside within an entirely different culture, yet this novel manages to perfectly describe how Amir and his father feel whilst going through such an experience. I dont’t want to say too much about why Amir returns to his hoke country, but I will say it reveals a fantastic plot twist and paves the way for a beautiful ending to the novel. The only part of the novel I felt was vaguely guilty of manipulating my emotions was the final few, slightly melodramatic pages, although I was willing to overlook this amidst the rest of the beautiful story. Seeing Amir return to his home country to find it blighted by terrorism was one of the most moving things I have ever read, and was one of the many reasons I cried for an hour and a half straight whilst reading this book. I have never sobbed at a book or film so much in my entire life- every time I stopped crying something happened that made me start all over again!
I’d recommend The Kite Runner to anyone who feels in need of a reality check- it really will put your devastation about breaking your new phone or failing that test into perspective! That being said, it’s definitely quite a ‘political’ piece of popular fiction, discussing some very important issues, so I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone looking for a light read. However, if you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to be a refugee or someone from a war-torn country, then this is the book for you. Regardless of whether you love or hate the characters, particularly Amir, this book will prove to be an important, evocative novel. I challenge anyone to make it all the way through this book without shedding a tear or two, especially at the fate of two or three key characters. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve read a book that felt as relative to an on-going political situation as this one did. In fact, I’d even go as far as suggesting this book made me question my own personal views, as it has most definitely made me take a softer stance on how we ought to treat refugees from the Syrian conflict, or indeed any person seeking safety in our country. It simply seems unfair that someone should suffer so much in their own country then have to rebuild their entire lives in a strange, and often hostile, environment, possibly with minimal help and support from that new country. Fictional or not, Amir’s situation can easily and realistically be compared to what residents of many countries have faced in worryingly recent history.
Rating: * * * * * (5/5)