So another book club done, and I definitely think we’re getting better and better at this! After posting that this was going to be our next book choice I was thrilled to receive an email from the Khaled Hosseini Foundation inviting us to join their book club pages and expressing their pleasure at our fine choice! I must admit I wasn’t aware that the Khaled Hosseini Foundation existed, but having now checked out their website, I was even more pleased that we had chosen a book not just by a wonderful author, but clearly by a very influential and wonderful man. Originating from Afghanistan himself, Khaled Hosseini set up the foundation to provide humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan. Check out some of the work they do here.
So the book itself. We all had very high hopes for ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, most of us having read both ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, and loved them. I often find that going in to a book with such high expectations can often lead to a let down, but thankfully this was far from the case this time! As an overall feeling I think I can make a sweeping statement that this book was very well received by all, but with differing reasons why, and a variety of attitudes towards the characters, the plot and the development of the story.
As with his other two bestsellers, the story is set mainly in Afghanistan and introduces the reader quite vividly to the way of life before, during and after war broke out. But even more poignant for me was the interesting overlap of the very poor and the very wealthy of Afghanistan, who could live in very close proximity to one another yet be totally unaware of the influence they may be having on the other. We are introduced to the main characters early on, a young brother and sister, who suffer a terrible injustice, and are then left to deal with the consequences. The story then takes us through the events of the following years, showing us how their lives separate and intertwine along the way, breaking your heart with what could have been and what wasn’t.
We unanimously agreed that the story is beautifully written and Hosseini certainly has a gift of writing which keeps the reader drawn in, feeling part of the story and feeling empathy for the characters. We loved discussing the characters, why they did what they did, what would have happened if…? There are a lot of ‘ifs’, what if their lives had taken different paths? What if they had found each other sooner? Hosseini’s character development is wonderful, characters who initially appear insignificant reveal themselves to be quite the opposite, but often in a very subtle way, such as merely being a way of highlighting an important trait in a different character, or being the reason why another character chose the path they did. I believe it is a brilliant skill to be able to use subsidiary characters more as tools rather than personalities in their own right, as a way of finding out more about someone else.
For me the book was a brilliant read, one I found difficult to put down, as I was always wondering and wanting to find out… Would they find each other? What happened to them? How were these people linked? Everyone enjoyed the book and it was an excellent story for raising discussion points, such as why certain characters were included, what was the significance of that comment or minor detail? But that is the beauty of a book club, everyone interprets stories and ideas in different ways, so there were a lot of questions and answers thrown out that hadn’t crossed my mind, and consequently answered some of my own questions. Some of the members didn’t rate it quite as highly as the previous two books, but they did start on a fairly high pedestal so it was a fair standard to live up to! But others truly loved it, loved the way Khaled Hosseini can capture the spirit of a place and a people that we will probably never visit and really know very little about.
Thank you Khaled Hosseini for another brilliant book, please keep them coming!