I was almost relieved when, partway into reading The Kite Runner, I realised this was definitely a ‘good’ book. Otherwise, I’m not sure that I could have written a review. It would be very difficult to criticise a book so widely adored.
Dubbed by its publisher as one of the world’s most popular and best loved books, and it is not hard to see why readers have embraced it.
Set between Afghanistan and the US, it is the story of two boys who grew up together in a peaceful but prejudiced Kabul, which changes dramatically when the Taliban arrives. However, the friendship between the boys, the privileged Amir and his friend and Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, has already been shattered by the cruelty of others, and of Amir himself.
Years later and having fled the Taliban to America, Amir continues to suffer from his behaviour towards Hassan and his father. When the opportunity for redemption arises, he embraces it, regardless of the risks.
The Kite Runner explores themes of class, good and evil, friendship and family. I also found it interesting to learn about the reality of life in Kabul before the Taliban, a place which I had only seen in news stories after it had been destroyed by war.
The ambiguity of Amir’s behaviour is also fascinating – while he deeply loves Hassan, he treats him with great cruelty. In a way, Hossein’s depiction of Amir recognises the casual cruelty of children who soak up the attitudes of the society in which they live, regardless of their own experiences. The danger of prejudiced attitudes towards minorities continues to feel very real, even far from Afghanistan.
Hossein is also ambiguous in his references to Muslim culture, and never offers easy answers. He criticises some of the biases and cruelties of the community of Afghans that has fled to America, including the treatment of women, and Amir’s eventual wife in particular.
While The Kite Runner explores important issues and themes, it never lectures or condescends. It is both an illuminating and emotional read – a combination specific to the greatest books – among which it certainly has a place.