Why I picked up this book?
The reason is simple. I loved author’s first book The Kite Runner. His beautiful style of story telling of two boys, their emotions, inner turmoil and conflict, vivid description of the condition of people under Taliban barbaric rule, suspense in the story. All these left me drained and disturbed for many days.
The Kite Runner was all about bonding between men. Father and son, master and servant, tentative friendship between two boys, uncle and nephew.
Please don’t mind if I keep inserting The Kite Runner in between the review. You should understand I am yet not over with my hangover of the book.
A Thousands Splendid Sun explores the relationship between the two women Mariam and Laila, who were forced to marry the same man Rasheed. From being bitter and insecure, suffered inhumanly from the hands of men both inside the house and outside, how these two women become life line for each other in the most tumultuous scenario.
This story is written against the background of Afghanistan with focus on condition of women in general under various regime starting roughly from 1950’s till the end of Taliban rule 2002. So one can say it is also a coming of age novel.
Condition of Women under various regime
Taliban or no Taliban, condition of women in Afghanistan was always pitiful. They were treated no better than animals or may be much worse. Every household has one or more people like Talibs.
After Taliban’s takeover, the inhuman treatment become from worse to intolerable. Women were beaten at a slightest pretext, raped for avenging and killed openly. If a man kills a wife than that is a private matter of the family but vice-versa is not true.
According to the author, proper Kabul was much liberal in their thoughts and conduct towards women. In Kabul, women were educated and working. There was no burqa system and women in general were treated well. But all these was before Taliban era.
Two Outlooks in the pre Taliban Age
Two outlooks were prevalent before the Talibs took over. Laila’s father Hakim represented the liberal outlook who were in favor of equal rights to both men and women. Education for female is a must. In fact Hakim consider the era of communist to be the best in Afghanistan as it is during this period females enjoyed the most freedom.
Second was the more extremist outlook which was represented by Rasheed who considered women to be a prized possession kept behind burqa, could be mercilessly beaten at will, an object to satisfy sexual requirements and to carry male scions of the family.
Sadly second outlook become more and more stronger and worsen after the oust of Russia from Afghanistan and it reached its zenith under Taliban.
Women character in the story
There were three main women characters in the novel who are the victim of men’s brutality at various point of time. Through these women author has depicted
Both Mariam and Laila were strong willed women. Of course you need a lot of courage and enduring capacity to suffer physical and emotional torture of talib kind husband and Talibans themselves for many years.
Enduring and not fighting back was their mode of survival. But when they really fought it became the last day of Rasheed’s life. This incidence struck me hard. We, the women keeping absorbing all wrongdoings. Why?
It is not that we are weak. It is because we don’t believe in break-up but in patch-up. We believe in construction and not destruction. We believe in forgiving and not revenging. But everything to a limit.
Another women character which intrigued me was Mariam’s mother. She used to bad mouth Mariam and was the first one to call Mariam a “harami” as she was born outside the wedlock. Mariam hated her mother. But after her death she realized her importance.
Why Maraim’s mother treated her so badly? Was it her way to toughen up her daughter and safe her daughter from any major heartbreak. Well maybe.
Initially Maraim and Laila were adversaries. But soon they were riding the same boat. Rasheed was meting out the same kind of harsh treatment to both of them. Relationship of pain develop between the two and both found solace and strength in each other’s company.
Significance of the title of the book
Why to title a book as splendid sun, not one but thousand, when there nothing, but never ending darkness. The torment and abuse inflicted on two women doesn’t seems to cease.
Yet sacrifice of Mariam has filled the heart of Laila with sunshine which she is determined to spread everywhere. Hence the title.
A Thousand Splendid Sun is nothing like The Kite Runner. Latter is phenomenal in its expression, description and story telling with some very good plotting.
Still A Thousand Splendid Sun is a good read. But the story hurts a lot. It hurts thinking that how a few thousands people who have guns and hunters in their hands gives them the right to intimidate others to behave in certain manner or else get ready to be flogged and killed. And all this done in the name of religion.
Hunter inside the house and hunter outside the house, in such a scenario where is the option to fight back. And in such a situation our counterparts were struck enduring tortures for ages which seems to be getting worse with each passing years. It gives me goosebumps by just imagining their situation.
I always wonder what good Taliban did to their own nation and people in the name of religion with guns and hunters in hand.
While The Kite Runner was disturbing to read still it has some light moments here and there. A Thousand Splendid Sun was depressing to read. There was no salvation, no relief and no hope in the story only desire for good days.