This is the second, much-awaited novel by the author of The Kite Runner. Longer and covering an even longer span of time in the history of
Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of the richest man in
Twenty years later we see the arrival of beautiful, spirited Laila in their lives amongst a backdrop of civil war, loss and poverty. Her entrance awakens Mariam to another way of being and thinking. Although Laila is less submissive and more ambitious than Mariam, the women find each other friends and allies.
The novel takes us through the Soviet invasion of
One of my few criticisms would be in the creation of Rasheed, Mariam’s husband. Whereas the male characters in Kite Runner were more complex, Rasheed feels a little one-dimensional at times. Although the story is from the point of view of the women, you would still hope to gain insight into why Rasheed behaves in the way that he does. Instead you get a ready-made violent, abusive, slimy husband with the predictable outcome that you can see the walloping coming every time. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the characterisation of Rasheed is the way his son pines for him.
As with the Kite Runner and Saira Shah’s The Storyteller's Daughter, religious people in this book are generally of the mad, bad Mullah type. The exception is the gentle old Mullah Faizullah who is kind but whose brand of faith (read Quran, have faith, pray etc) is portrayed as ineffectual and not really an answer to anything – Mariam prays and suffers in equal measure.
The book is still an absorbing read though and in the end, what stays with you is the pain of Mariam’s sacrifice. Her choice is haunting and hangs over the rest of the book and over whatever else Laila does. It also stays with you after you have finished this book.
Book Review: Åsne Seierstad - The Bookseller of Kabul