Khalid Housseini’s novel to follow The Kite Runner is also set in Afghanistan and traces the period from the Soviet invasion through to the rise and fall of the Taliban. He grew up in Afghanistan but now lives in California – since about 1980 – so plainly didn’t experience this first hand. He is now doing some aid work.
I found this book interesting for a couple of reasons – the story itself is charming – love story, overcoming incredible odds, that sort of thing – but also the story of Afghanistan is so interesting itself. We talk glibly about how they have been torn apart by wars for years but this book brought it home.
I remember meeting a woman from Kabul in 2002, I was doing a series on Muslim women in Perth and how their lives had changed post 2001. They came from all walks of life – Malaysian upper-class, Western women who had converted, women from Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states, women who wore veils, women who didn’t – it was a very eye-opening series for me – anyway I remember chatting to this lady who had gone to university in Afghanistan and she described Kabul as this very cosmopolitan, vibrant city; women who worked, beautiful gardens and public buildings. A far cry from the grey, bombed out, dusty city we see in news bulletins today. From the oppressive regime of the Taliban, where women were not allowed to work, or go to school, or even walk the streets without a male relative escort.
It’s not a hard read, although the images are sometimes graphic. I read it in about two nights so certainly hard to put down.
I agree with the Guardian reviewer about his view of Afghanistan – he certainly doesn’t challenge the western view and he is full of hope about it’s future.