I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.
***Read as part of the Through the Wardrobe Debut Novels Challenge***
There are some books that stay with you, even if you only read them once. The first time I read The Kite Runner I was moved beyond belief and began recommending it to everyone I met just so I could bask in their enjoyment of it too! Rereading it as part of the Debut Novel Challenge meant that I could savour the wondrousness to come and take my time to mentally visualise the cinematic surroundings of Hosseini’s hauntingly beautiful novel.
The Kite Runner is a story told in three parts and is predominantly set in Afghanistan in the 1970s. It follows the contented life of Amir, the son of a wealthy merchant, his friendship with Hassan, the son of the family servant, and how everything changes irreparably the day Amir wins the local kite fighting tournament.
Hosseini is a writer who is able to paint with words and his narrative is not only picturesque but is soulful too. He places you in the position of Amir, a boy whose only wish is to please his father and find his place in the world, and in spite of his vast failings, you still root for him to find his way. The narrative sweeps you up, compels you to read on as you explore both the beauty and destruction of Afghanistan and its people.
The subject matter tackled within The Kite Runner is moving and heart-wrenching at times, with violence and acts depicted within the pages that defy the definition of humanity. However Hosseini’s lyrical style is able to both depict and shelter the reader as his writing creates an awareness of these acts rather than an overt description of them. It’s emotive and devastating at times but you can’t help but hope for the future of these characters, that life for them will move on, and as such The Kite Runner is virtually unputdownable.
The depiction of the Taliban is a contentious issue amongst critics and I do agree that they can be seen as almost cartoonishly evil. The main ‘face’ of the Taliban within the novel is Amir’s childhood bully Assef, who, as a sadistic child with a penchant for Nazism, grows into an equally unpleasant and vicious adult. There are certain stereotypical markers set in place, which I found completely forgivable because this story is not about the history of the Taliban. It is about relationships transcending distance, generations and class. It focuses on heritage, redemption and rebuilding links even in the face of total destruction. The thoughtlessness of childhood begets guilt in adulthood, and in Amir’s case it is a guilt that’s so deep-rooted only an act of selfless sacrifice can begin to make amends.
In short, The Kite Runner is nothing but an astonishing debut and an astounding read.