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Reading 933 pages of the ‘Shantaram‘ novel can be tedious especially when you do not have the time and are only reading 2 or 3 chapters per day. Nevertheless, ‘Shantaram‘ is an interesting novel. A novel that takes the reader through Mumbai’s ugliest places and the grim and the dust of the city to the paradise of Goa to the cold, brutal Afghan mountains.
‘Shantaram‘ I think is a partly true story of the author, Gregory David Roberts who escaped from an Australian prison. The novel speaks of his entry into the then Bombay and his journey through the city. The protagonist mingles with people in Leopold, is forced to stay in a slum, starts a clinic there and even comes to enjoy his life in the slum. He joins the mafia to earn cash, gets involved in gang war and the war in Afghanistan. He comes to love India and learns valuable lessons of life as well. The book ends on a hopeful message giving a grand message simultaneously.
Its a one of a kind novel where India in general and Mumbai in particular can be seen from a different perspective of a foreigner. India or Mumbai are neither degraded nor are they glorified unnecessarily but are portrayed objectively with plus and minus points. For once, it is good to see an author describing Mumbai’s slums, Arthur Road Jail etc. and not romantically babbling about only Marine Drive, Gateway or Taj. (I mean Mumbai is much more than those things).
On the other hand, the novel was a tad too long. Gregory Roberts could have easily shortened the story. There are a few loose ends like whether the author goes back to Australia or stays back in Mumbai and if he does, what does he do–be with the mafia or start something else. (Hopefully he will write a sequel soon with lesser pages though).
So I say that ‘Shantaram‘ is a good book but read it when you have all the time in the world. Reading the book slowly drags the story and takes the pace out of it.
‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini is his first novel and it is simply extraordinary. It is rare to read a story about Afghanistan and even rarer for the that story to not be about war in Afghanistan. It is infact a story on deep friendship and love. ‘The Kite Runner‘ is a marvellous, honest story. It is a must read.
The two main protagonists- Amir and Hassan- are playful, fun loving kids living in the 1970s’ in Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a rich man while Hassan is the son of Amir’s servant, Ali. Despite that, Amir and Hassan are like brothers. They play together and frolic together and fly kites together . Hassan is an excellent kite runner and in the days when kite flying was a legal past time, it was a great talent to have. Amir, unlike his father, is not brave while Hassan can easily fend off bullies and other rascals bravely. Once in 1975, a shattering event occurs during the kite fighting tournament that alters both their lives. In 1981, Amir and his father move to America to flee from the violence in Afghanistan. Amir’s life is pretty secure then and he tries to forget that 1 event but it haunts him and it eventually makes Amir go back to Afghanistan to undo the wrong he had done back in 1975.
‘The Kite Runner‘ rendered me speechless. It is one of the best stories that I have read. It is immensely moving, emotional and heartbreaking. The splendid and beautiful description of prewar Afghanistan makes me realise how much the country has lost because of power, war and unending politics.
P.S. Do not watch the film, ‘Kite Runner‘ because it has none of the nuances and emotions in the book the touch the reader’s heart. It is quite a horrendous film. The book is thousand times better!
It is difficult to describe in words what I exactly felt and thought about ‘A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS‘ by Khaled Hosseini because it was so unique and personal. I will still attempt to write a review on the book. Hopefully it will be useful.
It is one of those rare gem of a book that elicits a thousand emotions-from deep despair to breathtaking bliss to anguish and anger to innocent happiness. This book is simply-and there is no other word for it-REAL.It is not based on a true story but the incidents could and have happened to millions of people in Afghanistan. I really loved this book simply because it is deeply moving and touching and in a sense it is not just a book but a reality-a harsh one- that Afghans faced and continue to face after the Russian invasion in 1979.
The story is about two girls-Mariam and Laila and how their lives intertwined as a result of circumstances. Mariam is a bastard. Her father, Jalil Khan, is a rich businessman in Herat(Mariam’s birthplace) who got his housekeeper(Mariam’s mom, Nana) pregnant. Mariam is conveniently married off in Kabul to a tyrant, Rasheed, at a tender age of fifteen. Laila, by a brutal turn of circumstances, ends up in Rasheed’s house. Initially hostility reigns between Mariam and Laila but gradually, they become close and a marvelous friendship amidst utter breakdown and destruction develops. The end of the story is hopeful, a poignant display of love and survival.
One of the misunderstandings about the books is that it is entirely set during the Taliban’s rule. However, in fact, only a part of the book is set during that time period. The story spans from 1960s’ to the early 200s’. The story, thus provides a brief history lesson of Afghanistan.
For me, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ was absolutely flawless. The narrative was beautiful. It essentially deals with the brutality that women face in Afghanistan due to harsh patriarchy. These themes can be relevant among indian readers as even in India, women are still suppressed and denied freedom(although perhaps not at such an extreme level as in Afghanistan).
For many people, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ was depressing because of the sad events. It was painful, yes, and it did leave me shocked at some passages but I did not find it depressing. To only read happy books with cliched and predictable endings is stupid for me because then you are not being aware of the problems around the world. I agree that is is highly emotional, very sad but then it is reality. Countless women have faced and still face such horrors and discrimination in their lives. I was crying throughout the book and I do not think there is anyone who wouldn’t be moved by this singular story.
It is definitely a must read and if you can’t even read it, just think about those for whom it was not just a book they could ignore but life that they faced every single day.