Review: The Kite Runner

I bought this book for my kindle years ago, having been recommended it many, many times by various people who knew I loved to read. Unfortunately, at the time, I was just being thrust headlong into exam revision for my first year of university (golly how time flies!). Over my years at university, reading and re-reading scientific articles, I lost my taste for reading for fun – if I was reading, I should be studying. So I avoided reading. I missed it terribly, and finally caved on the 19:30 from London to Birmingham.

Book: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hossenini
Published: 2009 by Bloomsbury
Available in paperback, hardback and Kindle (Available to purchase from Amazon: here)

When The Kite Runner was first recommended to me, and I saw it was on a kindle deal, I was not sure what to expect. The description revealed little of the plot, and what was revealed did not seem my ‘style’ of reading. At the time, I was a primarily romance and Harry Potter kind of girl. I put off reading it, citing exams and a generally whirlwind lifestyle. Recently, in conversation with my bibliophile Aunt and Uncle (who ninety per cent of my recommendations stem from) The Kite Runner  came up in conversation as a book none of us had read. Which seemed impressive given our combined kindle library spans about 500 books. I volunteered to read, and report back, in some kind of strange family book group.

Within pages, I was gripped, and the two hour journey back home flew by at a phenomenal rate.

Set in 1975, the story is written from the perspective of Amir, a young Sunni Muslim, son of a rich, respected man in Afghanistan in the last years of the Monarchy. It follows the life of young Amir, and his best friend and servant Hassan, a Hazara, as they play and read. Amir desperately craves his father’s approval and affection, as different from his father as night from day so it seems, the approval Hassan seems to receive so easily despite being a servant and illiterate. At twelve, he is desperate to win the annual Kite Fighting tournament, with Hassan’s help, desperate to win the approval of a father who doesn’t understand him. But the consequences of Amir’s success, and Hassan’s successful retrieval of the fallen Kite, lead both boys down a path that neither could have forseen at the start of that wintery day. Overcome with guilt for not protecting his friend, Amir pushes Hassan away, to the point where Hassan and his father Ali, are forced to leave the household. Later, as the Russians take over the city of Kabul, Amir and his father are forced to flee the city, ending up in America. Amir and his father start to repair their relationship away from Kabul, guilt still eating away at Amir. It isn’t until years later, answering a call from an old friend, that Amir realises the extent of the secrets within his family, and can begin to atone for the sins of his childhood. He realises he must return to Afghanistan to put right what he did twenty-something years prior.

This is the story of a friendship ultimately destroyed by a deep-seated jealousy of paternal affection, guilt and pain. Narrated by 40-year old Amir living in California, the reflections of childhood days spent running round Kabul are interfused with adult recollections and emotions. The tale weaves father and sons, friendship and politics, with an underlying presence of the guilt Amir feels apparent very early on. This is a story of feeling like a disappointment in his fathers eyes, of being jealous of the easy acceptance of Hassan when Amir has to strive for a pat on the back, its feeling guilty for feeling jealous, and ultimately, Amir’s decision is based on a desire to win his father’s affections.

The Kite Runner is such a vibrant tale, with believable characters with human flaws, and childish desires leading to a guilt-complex that spans nearly three decades. Its about friendship, and about atoning for sins past. This book came with critical accolades, recommenced by so many as ‘an insight into the human mind, good for a psychologist such as yourself’ and I heartily add my recommendations to the mix. This was a well written book, with vivid and rounded characters that were entirely believable, childhood perspective intertwined with the political situation in Kabul and later in America giving a biased opinion of events whilst ensuring the audience were aware of how the situation differed from little Amir’s perspective. I was introduced to a wholly unfamiliar culture, location and situation, and I was completely immersed in the smell of the pomegranate tree where Amir and Hassan read, the sight of the snow covering Kabul in the winter, hearing children’s laughter in the streets, and familiar emotions of jealousy, of desperation to be accepted coursing through my veins.

I would say that the end seems a little … Hollywood movie set. But I enjoyed it as a redemption arc for Amir. That was how it felt, it felt like a redemption arc, when it would have been more plausible to keep Amir in America, living out his days wondering if he will ever be forgiven for the deeds he had committed. When I gush about this book, I think of the first part, childhood in Kabul, and the second, being uprooted and learning to live in America, more than Amir’s return to Kabul to set things right. The contrasts between the city of Amir’s childhood, and the city under Taliban rule however, were well written.

So, to conclude, I would recommend this book to anyone, regardless of which genre you usually find yourself paddling in. I would advise that it contains graphic scenes and violence, as well as the harsh emotions associated with being forcibly uprooted and forced to flee to a completely different world. Despite the far-fetchedness of the final section, The Kite Runner was a truly exceptional read that had me gripped from start to finish.

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