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Maureen

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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I did think Tariq was dead at first but then Rasheed said something about some people not being dead enough and then I knew he was still alive.

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Hi all . I faced reading this book with a bit of prejudice . Why? Some while back my wife read the Bookseller of Kabul and she was spitting fire after she finished it. I read it after her and it was horrible. You see I genuinely like women and I don't like to read about them being ground down by such an oppressive existence.

It doesn't matter whether you call it religion, culture or tradition . It makes no difference to a little girl who is not allowed to go to school and grows up with no hope at all .:D

 

I think the author wrote it with the best of intentions though.

Anyway on to the questions

 

 

1. Who was your favourite character and why?

 

I guess Laila for being on the ball and always trying to turn the situation to her advantage.

 

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

 

Mariam doing some impromptu gardening practice on Rasheed's head was satisfying. The part during the Soviet occupation seemed to be the most hopeful part of the book as far as the whole country was concerned.

 

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

First by this author, I mentioned I had read Bookseller of Kabul. I won't be reading any more.

 

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

I struggled all the way through to be honest. Could not get passed the basic injustice of it sorry. Although it is fiction I know this all happens for real. I saw the real life video of the woman being executed by AK47 on the football field and I thought of this at Mariams death. Mariam was kind of everywoman.

 

 

5. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

No.

 

One other thing. The part under the Soviet occupation. It seemed better. I wonder if this is just the authors opinion or a genuine refelection of the feeling during that time? As the West (and in large part the US) was responsible for funding the Mujehaddin and creating the Taliban as a counter to the Russians, would it have been better for Afghanistan (and the world) if they had just left well alone? :lol:

Edited by vodkafan

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Agree on the oppression of women, but by the same token how about the oppression of men?

 

Well, fair comment Rob. All are oppressed. And (some) men then take that out on their women. But in that Islamic culture there are no checks and balances in the law to protect women. Islam IS the law. Things not going too well with the economy? God must be displeased. Must be the women's fault then. Better come down on them a bit harder...:)

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The point your making vodkafan is the one Hossein is making.

 

Agreed. But I still don't like reading about it. Perhaps because I can't do anything about it.

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10. At one time Laila's father told her 'It is a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan'. Did your perception of life for women in Afghanistan change at all after reading this book?

 

After reading this book I learnt that women's life was a far cry from the horror it was during the Taliban's time. In fact in 1964, women were given the right to vote, in 1959, wearing the veil became optional, and women had the right to an education and held jobs. During the Taliban's deplorable rise to power, instead of progressing further, almost overnight being a woman changed to recieving a life sentence of degradation, fear, a loss of even the basic necessaries of life - such as healthcare, and freedom, even losing the respect due to them as human beings - especially by the children born and raised during this period.

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11. Is there a particular passage which has haunted you, even after some time has passed since finishing this book?

I cannot get this particular passage out of my mind:

(The female doctor) bent over Laila. Laila's eyes snapped open. Then her mouth opened. She held like this, held, shivering, the cords in her neck stretched, sweat dripping from her face, her fingers crushing Mariam's. Mariam would always admire Laila for how much time passed before she screamed.

 

I had my son by Cesarean section, and the pain afterwards every time I sneezed, coughed or laughed was horrible. I cannot get the image of this particular scene out of my head - and imagining the pain Laila, and all the women who had to experience butchering in hiding during this period, had to go through makes me really angry.

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11. Is there a particular passage which has haunted you, even after some time has passed since finishing this book?

This is the part that really got to me:

 

She saw Aziza kicking in Zaman`s arms as he hurriedly turned the corner, heard Aziza screaming as though she were about to vanish from the face of the earth. And Laila saw herself running down the hallway, head down, a howl rising up from her throat.

 

I can`t imagine how it would feel to leave your child in an orphanage, or how it would affect a young child to be put through it. I found this so sad both for Laila and for Aziza.

I cried when I read this part of the book.

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The very early scene where Jailin's wives made it very clear that Mariam had to marry rasheed and disappear out of their lives, as her presence was a shame. Another facet of oppression for me.

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?

I very much admired Miriam for the way she kept going through all the trials of her life, and the ultimate sacrifice she made for Laila.

 

 

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I enjoyed the parts of the book where Miriam was having some enjoyment in life, although this was usually followed by disappointment. The part of the book leading up to Miriam's execution was incredibly touching, but I don't think I could say I "enjoyed" it as such. I also enjoyed the end of the book, once Laila and Tariq were safe and happy together.

I really did not enjoy all the cruelties in the book, both petty and major. I absolutely accept that there will be many women for whom this will indeed be life on a daily basis, but I didn't enjoy reading about it.

 

 

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

Yes, it was the first book I have read either in this genre and by this author, but I would not be keen to read more. It was well written, but I did not enjoy how upset most of it made me feel.

 

 

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

I have tried to imagine what it would be like to suddenly have no freedoms and be dependent on men for even the smallest things, and find that concept really hard to come to terms with. And, as I have already mentioned, all the small and large cruelties.

 

 

5. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

No, I couldn't say that I actually enjoyed it. It made me too unhappy.

6 and 7 need more thought!

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seems i missed question 10

 

The status of women in afghanistan seems to have always been somewhat precarious. In Kabul they fared better than elsewhere, till the Taliban took over. In more rural areas they where treated little better than servants, a point the author makes.

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seems i missed question 10

 

The status of women in afghanistan seems to have always been somewhat precarious. In Kabul they fared better than elsewhere, till the Taliban took over. In more rural areas they where treated little better than servants, a point the author makes.

 

Yes, I agree, however I never knew that around 30 yrs ago, wearing the veil was optional, and there were a number of women who held professions and careers. Afghanistan really regressed instead of progressed!

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Yes, I agree, however I never knew that around 30 yrs ago, wearing the veil was optional, and there were a number of women who held professions and careers. Afghanistan really regressed instead of progressed!

 

I think it would be better to never know what freedom feels like. To have known freedom and having it taken away...it sends a shiver down my spine.

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12. The book describes Afghanistan's enchantment with the film Titanic, and its popularity on the blackmarket. Is it something about this particular film, which has left such a lasting impression in Afghanistan, or is this a substitute for something else?

 

According to reports on the net, even haircuts could be dangerous in Kabul. Quoting msnbc.com, 'The wildly popular Leonardo di Caprio cut, dubbed the “Titanic” by locals, has teen-age boys lining up every day, eager to be transformed into American heartthrobs. [This barber] has been imprisoned twice for his artistry.' According to BBC (25/01/01) 'Officers in the Taleban militia have arrested 28 barbers across the city of Kabul. '

 

The barber would probably see this as a money making risk - but I would imagine the client would be punished as well. So, the way I see it, these boys, and perhaps men, are so fed up with 'Tali-bans' and the joyless life they made compulsory, that they even risked their limbs for some 'illicit' enjoyment. The film Titanic had all the ingredients missing in their lives, music, love, beauty, .......and sadness - the one thing Afghans, unfortunately, know plenty about. The law banning laughter in public must not have been difficult for the people to abide by, but other prohibited items still made a hit on the blackmarket.

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i've not said that much in this thread as it seems I take over, but as no one else seems to want to respond I'll add my views.

 

one point the author makes is that outside of Kabul, the attitude shown by Rasheed is the norm. woman are chattels, their only function being to bear a son and obey. This a wrong view, but not restricted to afghanistan.

 

the loss of tariq's lower right leg is a pointer to the problem of landmines, which affects many parts of the world, Angola springs to mind amongst others. The issue re Mariam and Laila is the main thrust, but sight should not be lost of the issue highlighted by tariq.

 

Mariam's real father is a weak man ruled it would appear by strong females. that seems unusual, but then Herat is different.

 

for me one of the most beautiful scenes was the visit to the Buddha, sadly now destroyed in the name of religious purity.

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Actually, sirinrob, I had been thinking just the other day that although I had answered the questions put (or most of them, I think), I hadn't really joined in much actual discussion of the book. Mostly because I was generally feeling too tired by the time I logged on to feel I would be making much of a contribution, if I remember!

 

I very much agree about the Buddha, it was a lovely scene, and made me think very much of how upset I felt after seeing a documentary focusing on the needless destruction.

 

The matter of the subjugation of women I find very hard. I am a pretty strong character myself and can't imagine coping in that situation, and the thought of the nightmare which many women's lives are on an everyday basis really gives me pause for thought.

 

And landmines are, of course, a real and very terrible problem for civilian populations long after conflicts are over for the armed forces concerned.

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The subjugation of women, especially in the way depicted in this novel, is always going to be difficult to comprehend. I dealt with it by focusing on the way the women reeacted and coped with it. That does not take away the unpleasantness, but helps take a broader look at the issues.

 

 

In an odd way, rasheed was oppressed. he changed his political views so he could survive in a volatile political climate.

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Sirinrob, I (and others ) find your input interesting, and it is appreciated. :D

 

I agree. Rob, dunno where you have got this idea from! That's what a forum is for so post away.

 

It is obvious to me that the author put all those elements and situations into the book as metaphors . He intended the book to educate the reader rather than just tell a story, and he says in the back of the book (in my copy anyway) that this was important to him.

 

I can appreciate that on one level, and in that way it was a good book, but on another level I could not get passed the ill treatment of women so could not enjoy the read. It made me too angry. My wife would not even pick the book up.

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I felt I learned a lot from this book but I felt emotionally drained after reading it.

 

I think every caracter in the book was oppressed in some way, some worse than others though. Poor Mariam.

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In an odd way, rasheed was oppressed. he changed his political views so he could survive in a volatile political climate.

 

Certainly, that type of regime means that all who live under it (including those who enforce it) are negatively affected in some way. It must be very difficult to be a "good" man (in terms of the way Western society thinks of a good man), when the way a man in such a society is expected to think and behave has such a narrow interpretation.

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