This is Khaled Hosseini's second novel, after The Kite Runner, which, by the way, I haven't read so far. I originally intended and wanted to read that one, but after a recommendation from Bhatti (verbal as well as on his blog) and a stroke of chance, I ended up reading this instead.
Never have I been so enthralled, so glued to a book. I just realised, that in the four days in which I read this book, I did not even listen to any music! Well, except for the songs that were playing when I went to watch Ghajini and when I went shopping yesterday... there was probably some music playing at the malls, I guess.
Khaled Hosseini has done a brilliant job at describing the terror inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan by the Mujahideen, the Taliban, and later, briefly, the American army. He has done an equally great job at describing the emotional turmoil the people went through in that time, the shattered hopes, the lost love, the separation from loved ones, the complete agony of it all.
The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, who, by a twist of fate, end up being married to the same man. Both have experienced the loss of loved ones. Initially, they are rather hostile to each other, but eventually, a strong bond forms between them, out of their shared abhorrence for their husband, and the fact that both have seen so much anguish in their lives, and don't have much to be happy about in life, other than each other's company, and, later, Laila's daughter Aziza, who brings into their lives the love, the joy, the fulfillment they lacked.
The powerful narrative makes the reader feel the tragedy, the hopelessness, the ecstasy, with the characters. I actually wept through some of the more agonizing parts. And I was pretty shaken up during some of the more gruesome parts.
The Taliban forbade women from getting an education, from taking up jobs, even from going out on the street without a burqa and a male relative to escort them. They forbade people from writing books, from painting, from watching films. It makes me think, how lucky I am, to be living in a time and place where I have the freedom of creative expression, the same educational opportunities as the men, an opportunity to work in the same workplace as them, and to be treated in the same way. There are men (even women, as a matter of fact) that I know of who do not think that women can do the same job in the same way as men do it, or that they do not deserve the same rights. But they are way better than men who think that a woman's purpose of existence comprises of cooking for him, cleaning up behind him, bearing his sons, bringing up the sons, satisfying his lust, and then, being locked up in his house and then, on top of all that, becoming the target of his sneers and his cruelty. Men to whom it never occurs that women are also people, who have dreams, hopes, desires, who feel pain, agony, ecstasy. I am thankful that I do not live in a time and place where one constantly lives in fear of death, of impending doom. That I do not have to flee from my own home in order to live.
By the way, I checked off all four items from my list. Read two novels so far, watched two movies alone so far, went out shopping by myself yesterday, and found myself sleeping from midnight to noon almost every day. Cheers!