“The generation of Afghan children whose ears would know nothing but the sounds of bombs and gunfire was not yet born.”
Read in November 2017
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
I understand now how this book is a classic. I really enjoyed reading it, even though I found it uneven in term of quality, and it was really educational. I vaguely knew that Afghanistan has been through a lot, but this book made me realize how much I lack in world history (I was ashamed when I told my boyfriend about I was reading a book setting in Afghanistan in the 1970s and he was like “Right, then the Russian will come, then the Talibans” I felt so stupid not knowing that).
So as I said, the story takes place in the 1970’s in Afghanistan, we’re following Amir a rich Afghan boy and his everyday life with Hassan the son of his father’s servant. But Hassan is a Hazara, and his people are persecuted by most Afghans, treated like dogs, yelled insults at when they walk in the streets. Amir knows about that and avoids hanging out with Hassan in front of others Afghans, even though he considers him as his best friend. Amir doesn’t stand up for himself nor his friendship, but Hassan is quite the opposite. He defended Amir many times, risking his safety while at it. Hassan’s loyalty is dangerous, the day he stood up to a group of bullies in order to protect Amir, they promised to make him pay.
“You’re a prince Hassan. You’re a prince and I love you”
In Kabul, there is a Kite Fighting contest, it’s a tradition and it takes place every year. There are two winners, obviously the last kite standing wins (which is Amir’s specialty), but also the one who catches the last kite that has fallen. (and this where Hassan has a gift). Amir, in constant seeking of affection from his father wants to win the contest, and he does, while Hassan goes running the last kite. Not seeing him coming back, Amir started looking for Hassan, and saw him cornered in a street by those bullies. When they begin to rape him all Amir can do is hide. Guilt he’ll have to carry his whole life.
This first third of this book (basically until the Russian arrive and Amir and his father fled the country) was the best part for me. It was hard to read, yes, but it really was the part that touched me the deepest, and it was the promise of a 5 star read. But along the way, I began to get bored, as the second third was not interesting to me, I wanted to know about Hassan who stayed in Afghanistan, not of Amir seeking a wife in America. The love interest part really bugged me story wise. It was interesting to see how war immigrates lose everything and have to start over in a new country, but it sounded more like a documentary and less than a fiction, which was a total shortage with the first third.
“That’s the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That’s the Afghanistan I know. You? You’ve always been a tourist here, you just didn’t know it”
The last third managed to make me regain some interest, I liked how Amir had to atone his past’s mistakes, to overcome his guilt. I enjoyed especially how as a grownup he could realize how he was a privileged child, because it’s easier to blame an adult than a child for his mistakes, and as an adult he couldn’t realize the depth of what he’d done without doing this trip into his past.
One of the other point I liked the most about this book was the food ! I’m a huge fan of Indian-Pakistani food (naan, pakoras, chicken tikka masala tandory, basmati rice…) I could visualize most of what he was describing and I spend so many time drooling! Really, this book even made me order so many take-out I’m ashamed! Moreover, I loved the way young-Amir narrated the story, it was so innocent and gullible and yet funny at some part, I really spend a good moment reading through his eyes for the first third (for instance, this quote made my day “Afghan tendency to exaggerate – sadly, almost a national affliction; if someone bragged that his son was a doctor, chances were the kid had once passed a biology test in high school.”)
“I could see his internal smile, as wide as the skies of Kabul on nights when the poplars shivered and the sound of crickets swelled in the garden”
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?