Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

"For you, a thousand times over" - Hassan explaining the number of carelessly placed similes in this book. 

Amir is a man reflecting on his past. This book is essentially him writing a book about writing a book. When he was younger, he and his friend Hassan had many good times together... well, as much as a boy and his servant can have. But it all changes when Hazara-born Hassan becomes The Kite Runner, the boy who the book is named after. In this book we read about how Amir has grown on his journey for redemption and forgiveness. According to Rahim Khan, there is a way to be good again. 

This review is going to contain a few spoilers so don't read it if you want to actually read the book. The following review may seem harsh in the way I have written it, but I was quite angry with the book at the time, and even after calming down my opinion still stands. 

Once again, this westernised version of Afghanistan is on display for every person ignorant to the truth of the violence really happening. I have seen many people review this and say it is the "cartoon version" of Afghanistan, and they are absolutely right. The portrait of the violence was painted so simplistically that I felt as though I was reading a piece of political propaganda. I expected much better and much more accuracy in the portrayal of Afghanistan, but I was left disappointed. 

I got the point of the book. Yes I hate Amir. Yes I feel sorry for Hassan. The clash in social status, the parallelism between the boys and their fathers, and the key themes of regret and redemption. It was nothing I hadn't seen before in terms of analysing the novel, but yet it had less to comment on than any book I studied two years ago. 

It included every devastating plot line known to man and this bored me. I felt as though I knew what was coming next. You could have a list of every unfortunate plot line and tick them off as you went through. Rape, murder, cancer, marriage, infertility, loss of a friend, lack of fathers approval, no female role model, war, loss of a home, migration, fitting into a new country, overbearing father in law, death, journey to self enlightenment... It tried too hard and not enough at the same time. 

And those randomly strewn Farsi words, many without translation. If you can't or won't give a translation to foreign words in books, don't include them. Simple as. I am sorry to inform you that I'm pretty sure 99.9% of those reading the book in English won't be fluent in Farsi. I know right? Shocker. 

I was beginning to think they only ate Naan and kabobs. I was hoping to be culturally educated and I was bitterly disappointed. It's kind of the same for the view of the Taliban we see in this book too. I wanted to learn, but for what people claim as a 'historical novel' it didn't deliver.

"I became what I am today at the age of..." "that was the day everything changed" "Afghanistan was never the same again". Every paragraph seemed to start and end with a dramatic cliché and I really didn't like that. I get it, it's meant to be a tense book. But let the action speak for itself, I don't need to be told everything was going to change. 

I hate writing bad reviews, I really do. I mean, the writing style was fluent. I didn't get bored. It was a good length. I believed the emotions. Hassan was a beautifully written character and the only strongly written one in the whole book, and then Amir got him fired and the book went downhill. It started off so strong, so original, and very raw. But as I read on, it became a stereotypical historical novel. 

I wouldn't have even minded if Amir learned from his mistakes, but he didn't even understand what he did wrong. He was a one dimensional character, he constantly felt bad but kept doing the thing he felt bad about. And he was a kid but was competent enough to know exactly what he was doing. So after a quarter of a century I thought he would get it. It wasn't the fact that he left Hassan to be raped that evening. It was the fact that he was constantly jealous, that green eyed monster creeping in his life, when he clearly had nothing to be jealous about. He didn't find forgiveness or redemption! He just had nothing to be jealous about anymore because by the end of the book everyone he had ever done wrong by or was jealous of were all dead. 

And yeah, the story was predictable. But I admit that I did like it more than some of the books I've read this year. So for this Hosseini can have 3/5 cups of tea. 

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