Friday, 31 August 2007

Book Review: 'The Kite Runner' (Khaled Hosseini)

Just got back from holiday in the early hours of the morning - had a wonderful time in Turkey, good rest and relaxation in a country that I had no idea was so beautiful.

Of course the time away also gave some chance to do some reading, and I plan to upload my thoughts as I get chance over the coming weeks.

One book that both my wife and I read was the highly-acclaimed novel The Kite Runner, which has recently been reprinted by Bloomsbury as part of their '21' series, a group of books that each represent the first published novel by a group of their authors.

The Kite Runner is powerful reading. Amir is a 12 year old Aghani boy who sees the shocking attack and rape of the son of his servant, Hassan. Despite having shared much of their childhood, he doesn't step in. The consequences of this attack haunt Amir for much of the rest of his life. Eventually an older friend, who learned of the attack, tells Amir that 'there is a way for you to be good again', a way that offers redemption.

There are many things that are very endearing in this novel. It's wonderfully written, and has well-observed and colourful descriptions of both Afghan and American culture. Afghan-born novelist Khaled Hosseini successsfully captures the tension and the fear of life in Afghanistan under Taliban control. The motif of kites, used throughout the book, is also an interesting exploration of freedom and innocence.

However, the one thing that really intrigued me in this book is the theme of guilt. As the novel unwinds, it becomes evident that several of the lead characters in the book. They feel guilty for different reasons and they also deal with their feelings of guilt in different ways at different times - sometimes spurred to philathropy in an effort to try and find atonement for their past errors, one character want to know punishment for his past transgressions. At other times, it's clear that escapism seems the only door open. The background of Islam also adds an interesting dimension to the book - is guilt primarily something we should feel with respect to others, or to God?

As I read this book, I was reminded of Hebrews 10, which describes the conscience of the Christian as being 'cleansed', because of Jesus' death which deals with our sin. We are reconciled to God and know that we are truly loved, even by the one we have offended. It is a wonderful thing to know the cleansing and healing that life with God brings.

I would commend The Kite Runner to anyone. It's not a pleasant read, nor is it a comfortable read. However, it is surely vital reading for those who want to understand Afghanistan better, but also for those who want to think more about the nature of friendship, betrayal, guilt and forgiveness.

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