The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is average at best. However, the professional critics have thought otherwise. It not only has been on many of the best seller lists but it also was awarded the book of the year by San Francisco Chronicle. However not surprisingly most praise has come around from the American press.
I was quite expecting to like this book. I have often been impartial to stories of immigrants, their hardships and the wonderful world of clashing cultures. Of course that being said my favourite hardships were the ones that weren’t obvious. Expectedly, this novel left me completely unsatisfied.
To write great fiction a good dosage of personal experiences is certainly essential. Mr. Hosseini certainly manages to recount a fair bit of Afghanistan make it interesting. Unfortunately he also manages to completely ruin it by ample amounts of maudlin and melodrama. Not to mention the incessant clichés and the quite Hollywood/Bollywood twists. It is almost as if he wrote this book with a movie in mind. Not surprisingly, there is one coming out next year…
The story revolves around the life of a young well to do afghan pashtun boy and his journey through the troubled Russian invaded times of Afghanistan and his eventual fleeing to America. His story also revolves around his Dad and more importantly his hazara servant/friend. There are other characters in the book and a fair share of ugly secrets but overall his character development skills I found quite ordinary.
I think the inherent issue here was the fact that the author was mixing popcorn fiction with realism. Most authors I have read who base a story around a certain political or historical event have often wisely strayed away from diluting it with human drama. If there is drama involved, it is usually subdued. Something that the reader absorbs as he plows through the book! But in this case Khaled Hosseini has used such obvious and tiring human stories that it’s almost leads to torture. I was constantly seeking the parts of the book that dealt with Taliban, Afghanistan; anything that would rescue me from his characters. I couldn’t help but linking his work to that of Jeffery Archer’s Kane and Abel. At least that book had no pretenses…
His writing skills also fail to impress. Take this for instance. Here, the author is describing a scene where the main character has returned to Afghanistan from America and is having some dark tea after being revealed some serious secrets of the past.
“The waiter placed a teacup on the table before me. Where the table’s legs crossed like an X, there was a ring of brass balls, each walnut sized. One of the balls had come unscrewed. I stooped and tightened it. I wished I could fix my own life so easily.”
There are similar instances throughout the book that leave you exasperated. It instantly took me back to my high school essays and that is not certainly a good thing.
Perhaps I am being quite unfair and harsh here. There is some good in this book. As I mentioned earlier, I liked reading bits and pieces of pre and post Taliban Afghanistan. Descriptions of kite fighting and transitions into the American life were also quite pleasant. And overall the story is interesting enough to keep one going.
If it weren’t for the hype, I would have been much less harsh on the author. But this book is certainly doesn’t even come close to do what the all the reviews said it would.