I realise I’m very late to the party with this book review but The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini had been on my ever growing ‘to-read’ list and I’ve only just got round to it. Why did I leave it so late??
It’s rare to discover a book that truly compels you to carry on reading. The grand scope of the book follows Amir from a child to adult, covering Afghanistan through its tumultuous Russian invasion and Taliban rule. These dark times however, enhance the brief moments of the country’s beauty. The novel is written from Amir’s point of view and his relationship with his best friend Hassan who he flies kites with. After witnessing a horrendous act, Amir is riddled with crippling guilt. A tale of redemption, paternity and brotherhood, we witness some horrendous scenes throughout this gripping story.
What struck me was the sheer involvement Hosseini had conjured in me to his main character. I have never read a character that was so gutless, so selfish that I actually felt ashamed of him and yet at the same time whole-heartedly rooted for him. It comes down to Hosseini’s acute observation of human interaction and of what it is to sin.
What underlies the whole book is the all-absorbing longing Amir has for his father’s acceptance. Amir, after finding a talent for writing stories, tells his father he has written his first one:
‘Baba shrugged and stood up. He looked relieved, as if he too had been rescued by Rahim Khan. “Yes, give it to Kaka Rahim. I’m going upstairs to get ready.” And with that, he left the room. Most days I worshipped Baba with an intensity approaching the religious. But right then, I wished I could open my veins and drain his cursed blood from my body.’
This moment not only foreshadows a scene towards the end of the book but communicates feelings of isolation through the supposed bodily connection/tie of blood. Hosseini means to illustrate at this juncture, the apparent futility of blood, when Amir and his father could not have more contrasting dispositions.
Although the journey takes us through scenes of sexual abuse, a public stoning to death and brutal attacks, the narrative, I feel, never loses hope. Through the imagery of the kite itself, the thought that Amir might one day redeem for his past is never cut loose and remains tethered.
These transient moments of beauty are heightened even more so by the overwhelming amount of terror the characters witness. Amir describes the flickering sunlight through the trees when he and Hassan would play in them. When he returns much older, the place has changed, but the memory is still just as fresh:
‘Hassan had said in his letter that the pomegranate tree hadn’t borne fruit in years. Looking at the wilted leafless tree, I doubted it ever would again. I stood under it, remembered all the times we’d climbed it, straddled its branches, our legs swinging, dappled sunlight flickering through the leaves and casting on our faces a mosaic of light and shadow. The tangy taste of pomegranate crept into my mouth.’
The vibrant and sensory imagery forces the past to come back to life, becoming almost tanglible. Almost. Afghanistan, his home, will never be the same again. I believe Hosseini is advocating us to cherish the beauty of the past, but to accept it as the past. For Amir to visit his childhood haunts and expect them to be the same is pointless. Just as it is to find atonement in the past.
I could go on for days and days about The Kite Runner, it really is a spectacular book. I’ll probably go on to watch the film, having heard good things, and experience it all again through the lens. You may come away from the end of this book emotionally drained and tear-soaked, but it’s worth staying up to read “just one more chapter”… even if that does mean you nearly fall asleep at your desk the next day.