Review: ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini

Where to begin? I adored ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, ‘Kite Runner’ broke my heart, and now there’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Whilst it definitively cannot be called my favourite of Hosseini’s trio, it’s beautiful in its own way and certainly has its emotionally crippling moments…

…until the end, that is. I need to get it out of the way, and begin at the end, which was in all honesty an anticlimactic disappointment. I accepted that, being a Hosseini book, happily ever after couldn’t be a legitimate possibility, but the mundane details of the final chapter were too much to bear. I didn’t need Pari and Abdullah to run into one another’s arms basked in the glow of sunset, but some form of closure was needed on their relationship, and instead it felt very hollow in its lack of intimacy.

Likewise, I felt disappointed in Markos and Idris’ stories – they were characters I felt bonded to in their fighting-underdog mannerisms, and yet they were just left without any form of reconciliation with the world around them, or with the main storyline. It was a shame for such compelling characters to be left dangling without resolution after building the foundations of their lives for the reader.

But again, remember the end is where I began. The rest of this book made me want to cry at the sheer beauty of it. In all honesty, the beginning was my favourite bit – the allegory of the div (a sort of monster) taking a child from a family and the father’s struggle to get him back and be freed of guilt was absolutely haunting, but simultaneously so beautiful I wanted to cry. Follow this up with the story of Pari and Abdullah and you’re a wreck before you even reach the third chapter. It’s something Hosseini is masterful at, crafting devastatingly beautiful familial relationships. Indeed, Pari’s future relationship with her adoptive mother, Nila, is crushing in its failure to launch and the consequences of this. Parwana and Masooma’s unspoken sibling rivalry is the final in the triad of loving yet emotionally burdened relationships, again a haunting indictment of the life-altering power of sibling relationships.

It’s a different take on his earlier writing, where we follow one story through to its completion, and in some ways this works; seeing a tangle of lives altered by intertwining circumstances reminds us how everything has far-reaching and potentially damaging consequences (just think about Iqbal’s fate). In some ways, though, it doesn’t, but I suppose this depends entirely on your own personality – are you someone who prefers to be an onlooker in a segment of life, or wants to see it through to completion? I suppose, in a sense, this means there’s something for every type of reader, and regardless of your investment, there is (as with any Hosseini book) the promise of an intense emotional impact after reading, and the mountains echo their message across its readership for longer than it takes to read the book.

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Review: ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini

Written in a beautifully simplistic yet emotionally charged manner, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ represents the confusion in the world: love being born of hate, war to create peace, and beauty within horrific moments. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and full of human hope, making it a truly wonderful book to engage with.

It is perhaps Mariam’s tale which is most haunting: a life filled with tragedy and false meanings, which gains unadulterated love and acceptance towards the climax of the novel. The contrast between her and Laila is incredibly effective in creating a connection with her, in showing how her life has been one controlling force following another. Here is where the simplicity of style allows Hosseini to shine: Mariam’s ordeal is largely inferred, meaning readers have to make this connection with her in order to understand her life, creating that emotional connection which allows the reader to be part of her battles. Mariam, therefore, could be symbolic of Afghanistan over this period: torn apart by wars that aren’t her own, and having to sacrifice so much in order to quell the bloodshed. Subsequently, Laila represents the war for peace: her defiance and fighting spirit against the repression of Rasheed and desire for Tariq represent those forces fighting for peace within their fractured lands, having to go through the horrors of bloodshed in order to restore the equilibrium.

Hosseini’s talent is making his subject accesible: in such a complicated history, he uses his characters to explore the complexities and morals of war, whether any man can be justified in fighting for what they believe is the right way to live. It shows the beauty of belief shattered by the ugliness of corruption; a theme shown through Mariam and Jalid’s relationship, and its devastating affects on the bystander, Nana. Likewise, Rasheed’s treatment of the women is something which reaches out to the reader: how far do we allow things to progress before intervening? It symbolises the relationship between the countries: did the USA interfere too much or too little? Could foreign aid have been better directed and stipulated? It slowly draws out our own political ideas and beliefs, again creating that invaluable connection between the reader, the author, and his creations and connections with life as we know it.

As such, this book is a truly enlightening read: so much is both said and implied that, as a reader, you become so involved with this text that it is difficult to step away; when you do, it is to recover from the sheer power of the messages and emotional gravity of this book. Khalen Hosseini is an inspirational writer in this respect, and his novel is worth every type of investment possible.