books

The Magic of Khaled Hosseini

After hearing so much about The Kite Runner, I thought it was finally time to pick up the book and give it a read. I did it on a complete whim, hoping that it’d be a good book, and in the end I was absolutely blown away. It lead to me researching his other books, and hunting them out in any bookstore I ended up passing by. In the end, I finished all three of his most famous novels, and absolutely fell in love. I couldn’t help but write a blog post about it.

‘I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us’
– And The Mountains Echoed

The Kite Runner
My flat mate picked up this book on a complete whim, from an outlet bookstore near our house. We wanted to read something and this seemed like the most appealing book in the English language section: what an understatement. From start to finish, this book was a page turner. I couldn’t put it down, and even when I had put it down for a break, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I cannot relate to the context of the book: Afghanistan, 1963 is where the book begins. The book spans from 1963-2001 and crosses 3 countries: Afghanistan, USA and Pakistan (briefly). Yet somehow, the book made me feel like I’d visited these countries, I felt like I was truly there with the characters. Speaking of which; the character development in this book is unreal. I started the book by taking a disliking to Amir, for his cowardice and for his jealousy of Hassan, but by the end I found myself strangely attached to him. In fact, I formed an attachment to most of the characters, even characters with less of an importance, such as Farid. The book evoked so many emotions in me, I laughed, I cried and most importantly the story stayed with me for weeks after putting the book down.

‘One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.’
A Thousand Splendid Suns

And The Mountains Echoed
I read this after The Kite Runner, and so had some very high expectations, and I was definitely not disappointed. The book is like a cycle, it spans a lifetime – the lives of Abdullah and Pari. The attachment I felt to these characters was unreal, and I felt like I spent the entire book waiting for them to meet again. The book tells the stories of fragments of different characters lives, stand-alone chapters if you like, and with each chapter comes something new. As fast as you become accustomed to the characters, they change with the coming chapter, and each becomes a part of the jigsaw puzzle. Much like The Kite Runner, this book transports you from your settings, whether that be to Afghanistan with Nabi, Paris with Pari or America with Abdullah and his daughter. It truly is a book that you can get lost in. The thing I like about this book, which is too similar to The Kite Runner and seems concurrent in all of Hosseini’s work, is that the characters are not perfect. Much like the shame of Amir in The Kite Runner at having ignored the tragedy that happened to Hassan, in this book Abdullah’s daughter, Pari, expresses her desire to leave her father and spread her wings even though he is ill: she isn’t perfect. But it is these flaws that make the characters so relatable, loveable almost. In all, I fell in love with not only the book but each and every character.

‘For you, a thousand times over’
– The Kite Runner

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Arguably, this is my favourite one. I definitely saved the best one for last, it took me little under 48 hours to finish this book and I absolutely fell in love with it. You can really see Hosseini’s skill and expertise in his writing here, with the way in which he constructs their characters and takes their stories through time. I think I enjoyed this book more than the others, because the two main characters are female. I felt they were more relatable, but at the same time, I learnt so much about gender roles in Afghanistan through these two women, and also much about their culture. I learnt a lot more from this book than the others: there were many historical references, and cultural references too. This was definitely a tearjerker, the book is split into different parts, and at the end of each part I held in suspense, wanting to move onto the next part as soon as possible! This was definitely a page turner, and a book which I quickly grew really attached to.

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books

5 Great Books I Recently Read

On reflection, 2016 was a year full of amazing books. Entering into the first month of 2017, I wanted to write a post about some amazing books that I read in the past year. As a languages student, I love reading books in all three languages that I speak, and in 2016 I discovered some really great stories by some really great authors. I didn’t necessarily read new releases, but just books that I personally discovered myself. Here are five of my favourites from the past 12 months:

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: maybe I’m a little behind with this one, as I feel I might say a couple of times in this post, but I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this book. This book, for me, was a charity shop find. I’d heard good things about it, and saw it sitting in a charity shop at the start of the year for around £2, so decided to pick it up. It sat on my shelf until the end of the summer, when I read it in around two days. A book historically situated in 1939 Germany, shortly before World War II, I couldn’t believe how gripped I was. Cleverly narrated from the point of view of death, the book tells the story of Liesel Meminger, and her struggle to live within the Nazi regime. It describes her passion for reading, the written word and her determination to read even the books prohibited to her. In all, it’s a book that I couldn’t put down and a book that made me laugh, cry and learn a lot.
  2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: speaking of books that made me cry, I feel like Me Before You is a book which was in every woman’s hands at some point during 2016. It seems this book needs no introduction, nor any synopsis, but Me Before You is the story of Louisa Clark, a woman who falls in love with Will Traynor, for whom she cares, after he became paralysed in a motorbike accident. I read this book in less than 24 hours and was in tears by the end of it, but it was so worth it. I am a sucker for a romance novel and this tug on all the heart strings possible; if you’re a fan of the romance genre this isn’t a book you want to pass up. There were chapters that had me in tears of laughters and others that had me crying with sadness but in all, the book was amazing. I also saw the film, but was disappointed: the book is definitely better. I received the sequel, Me After You, as a Christmas present this year and I’m excited to read it.
  3. Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis: this is a book I actually read for a class I took at university this year, Brazilian Literature. I read it in Portuguese, but I do believe there is an English translation, but this book was absolutely amazing. It was written in 1889 but is a book that could easily be placed in modern day, and a book that can be read with ease. It is a novel narrated by Bento, who looks back on his life and his fascination and love for a girl named Capitú. My favourite thing about this book is that it really situates the reader in Rio de Janeiro, it completely took me away from rainy old England and I was captivated by the setting of the book. Aside from this, I was speculating over the ending of the book until I finally finished it. I won’t drop any spoilers in this post, but if you have interests in Brazilian literature or even just extremely well written books, Dom Casmurro is definitely one you will want to pick up.
  4. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides: this is another book which sat on my shelf for months before I finally picked it up. I would go as far as saying that this book has been on my shelf for years, and I’m so glad that I finally read it. Eugenides writes in a style that I’ve never read before, almost voyeuristic. The book tells the accounts of the lives of the Lisbon girls, from the point of view of the boys who lived in their neighbourhood. Each one, tellingly commits suicide: as the book title suggests, but the story is not sad, is not dramatic, yet is simply a recall of what happened through the boys’ eyes. The boys’ fascination with the Lisbon sisters left me with the same fascination, I put the book down thinking about the reasoning for their suicides, the reasoning for the restrictions in their lives, the reasoning for their differing characteristics. It’s a book that stays with you for weeks after you’ve put it down.
  5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I’ve saved the best for last, because this book has become one of my favourite books of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. It takes a lot for me to consider a book to be my favourite, but this book had all the right elements. The book is written from a Oskar’s point of view, a nine year old boy who’s father died in the 9/11 attacks. Immediately I fell in love with Oskar, the cutest, smartest character I have ever read about, I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a cuddle. Oskar finds a key in a vase which he accidentally smashed in his father’s closet, which is with an envelope with the name ‘Black’ on it, and the story follows his journey throughout New York City to find what the key leads to. It was such a beautiful story, another story which had me laughing and crying, but most of all I love this book because I grew so attached to the characters. Safran Foer is a genius and I can’t wait to read more of his books in 2017.

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