For all its fame, Kite Runner never made much of a blip on my radar until I did some research on Bacha bazi (a form of child prostitution) and saw it mentioned there. Since I'm on a Middle East binge at the moment anyway, I decided to read it.
I was captivated right from the start and read the whole book in a few hours. It's the story of two boys who grow up together in Afghanistan in the 70s. They are best friends, but their relationship is marred by the fact that they belong to different ethnic groups. Eventually the narrator of the story betrays his friend and keeps this a secret for years. He has the chance to make up for it decades later.
The story unfolds with many twists and turns, some unexpected, some not. I was fairly sure how the book would end by the time I had gotten to the middle of it, but that didn't really stop me from enjoying it. The characters are the great strength of this book, with all their faults and their wishes and secrets.
You can read the first few pages here
I picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini's second novel, directly after I finished The Kite Runner and I enjoyed it just as much. The fate of Afghanistan's women has long been something that interests me. The novel manages to tell a captivating story of two women who live through arranged marriages, social stigmatisation, the Taliban regime and exile from their home, but Hosseini does it all without painting just a black and white picture. And while the characters do suffer (it's a book that's hard to read at times), there's hope for them.
Both books felt like a love letter to Kabul, Afghanistan and to the Afghan people to me and they made the country feel like a place that deserves such a letter.