So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one...Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari - as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was namSo, then. You want a story and I will tell you one...Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari - as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named - is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their heads touching, their limbs tangled. One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand. Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways in which we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us....more
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Riverhead Books (first published February 29th 2012)
And The Mountains Echoed
159463176X (ISBN13: 9781594631764)
Julien, Abdullah, Pari, Suleiman Wahdati, Nila Wahdati...more, Nabi, Parwana, Saboor, Timur Bashiri, Idris Bashiri, Masooma, Eric Lacombe, Markos Varvaris, Thalia...less
California (United States)
Although his first instinct is to take his child home, the div asks him to pause and think where the boy will have a better life. “You are a cruel beast,” says the man. “When you have lived as long as I have,” replies the div, “you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour.” Within pages, the storytelling father hands his three-year-old daughter to a wealthy couple in Kabul.
The long arc of Nabi’s narrative stretches from their impoverished village to Kabul, through his journey from rich man’s chauffeur to humble host of Western aid workers. His story aches with unspoken feelings, regrets, releases, made tangible by tender details: the lapis tiles looted from a bathroom, the creases in an olive suit, the soft heel of a beautiful woman with no nang nor namoos, no honour.
Nabi’s is such a moving, human story that you can forgive Hosseini for including lines like: “A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop on-board, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later”, which sound wise if you take them in atmospherically, but become irritating if you think about them any longer than it takes to read them.
At other times, Hosseini writes a quiet line that does stay with you. Nabi is a character who slips beneath the notice of many of the novel’s noisier characters. But when he makes a decision that changes all the lives around him, in the hope that a woman out of his league will become his lover, he realises in retrospect that he has been foolish. But he says: “I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.” All the characters in this novel are waiting for the startling twist of fate that will quell the ache and make sense of their narrative.
The stories set in the present day – the warlord, the Greek doctor – are less convincing although I can understand why Hosseini doesn’t want to abandon Afghanistan to its past. He even writes in a character much like himself: an Afghan-born, California-based doctor, who struggles for the appropriate response on a visit to his birth land. He wants to treat the survivors of “a thousand tragedies a square mile” with respect, but he ultimately shuts them out. Hosseini, by contrast, effectively continues to bring the human faces of Afghanistan to the West.
Even if some characters have less emotional resonance than others, and the pace slouches in the centre, when the echoes of the original story return in the closing section Hosseini pulls off his usual – impressive – trick of breaking your heart and leaving you smiling.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
416pp, Bloomsbury, t £16.99 (PLUS £1.35 p&p) 0844 871 1515
(RRP £18.99, ebook £10.25)
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