A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini
Binding:Paperback
Publisher:Riverhead Trade, (11/25/2008)
Language:English



Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.63 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)


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AFTER MORE THAN TWO YEARS ON THE BESTSELLER LISTS, KHALED HOSSEINI RETURNS WITH A BEAUTIFUL, RIVETING, AND HAUNTING NOVEL OF ENORMOUS CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years -- from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding -- that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives -- the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness -- are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love -- a stunning accomplishment.

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A hauntingly, achingly beautiful story.  Riveting and heartbreaking.

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"A Thousand Splendid Suns"
By Khaled Hosseini

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.63 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)


The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 
 
 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 

  • The phrase “a thousand splendid suns,” from the poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi, is quoted twice in the novel – once as Laila’s family prepares to leave Kabul, and again when she decides to return there from Pakistan. It is also echoed in one of the final lines: “Miriam is in Laila’s own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns.” Discuss the thematic significance of this phrase.

  • Mariam’s mother tells her: “Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.” Discuss how this sentiment informs Mariam’s life and how it relates to the larger themes of the novel.

  • By the time Laila is rescued from the rubble of her home by Rasheed and Mariam, Mariam’s marriage has become a miserable existence of neglect and abuse. Yet when she realizes that Rasheed intends to marry Laila, she reacts with outrage. Given that Laila’s presence actually tempers Rasheed’s abuse, why is Mariam so hostile toward her?

  • Laila’s friendship with Mariam begins when she defends Mariam from a beating by Rasheed. Why does Laila take this action, despite the contempt Mariam has consistently shown her?

  • Growing up, Laila feels that her mother’s love is reserved for her two brothers. “People,” she decides, “shouldn’t be allowed to have new children if they’d already given away all their love to their old ones.” How does this sentiment inform Laila’s reaction to becoming pregnant with Rasheed’s child? What lessons from her childhood does Laila apply in raising her own children?

  • At several points in the story, Mariam and Laila pass themselves off as mother and daughter. What is the symbolic importance of this subterfuge? In what ways is Mariam’s and Laila’s relationship with each other informed by their relationships with their own mothers?

  • One of the Taliban judges at Mariam’s trial tells her, “God has made us different, you women and us men. Our brains are different. You are not able to think like we can. Western doctors and their science have proven this.” What is the irony in this statement? How is irony employed throughout the novel?

  • Laila’s father tells her, “You’re a very, very bright girl. Truly you are. You can be anything that you want.” Discuss Laila’s relationship with her father. What aspects of his character does she inherit? In what ways is she different?

  • Mariam refuses to see visitors while she is imprisoned, and she calls no witnesses at her trial. Why does she make these decisions?

  • The driver who takes Babi, Laila, and Tariq to the giant stone Buddhas above the Bamiyan Valley describes the crumbling fortress of Shahr-e-Zohak as “the story of our country, one invader after another… we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing.” Discuss the metaphorical import of this passage as it relates to Miriam and Laila. In what ways does their story reflect the larger story of Afghanistan’s troubled history?

  • Among other things, the Taliban forbid “writing books, watching films, and painting pictures.” Yet despite this edict, the film Titanic becomes a sensation on the black market. Why would people risk the Taliban’s violent reprisals for a taste of popcorn entertainment? What do the Taliban’s restrictions on such material say about the power of artistic expression and the threat it poses to repressive political regimes?

  • While the first three parts of the novel are written in the past tense, the final part is written in present tense. What do you think was the author’s intent in making this shift? How does it change the effect of this final section?


  • Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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    Editorial Reviews

    Amazon.com Review
    It's difficult to imagine a harder first act to follow than The Kite Runner: a debut novel by an unknown writer about a country many readers knew little about that has gone on to have over four million copies in print worldwide. But when preview copies of Khaled Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, started circulating at Amazon.com, readers reacted with a unanimous enthusiasm that few of us could remember seeing before. As special as The Kite Runner was, those readers said, A Thousand Splendid Suns is more so, bringing Hosseini's compassionate storytelling and his sense of personal and national tragedy to a tale of two women that is weighted equally with despair and grave hope.

    From Publishers Weekly
    Atossa Leoni, who is German-born of Afghan ancestry, was clearly chosen because she can pronounce all the Afghan words—a big plus, but it's the only plus in this bad reading. Dropping her voice on the last word of every sentence, her phrasing is regularly rendered ungrammatical by breaks at the wrong points. Her narrow vocal range makes for a dull and often difficult listening experience. Despite the reader, the book holds the listener thanks to Hosseini's riveting story—an in-depth exploration of Afghan society in the three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban cruelty. He impels us to empathize with and admire those most victimized by Afghan history and culture—women. Mariam, a 15-year-old bastard whose mother commits suicide, is married off to 40-year-old Rasheed, who abuses her brutally, especially after she has several miscarriages. At 60, Rasheed takes in 14-year-old Laila, whose parents were blown up by stray bombs. He soon turns violent with her. Although Laila is united with her childhood beloved, the potential return of the Taliban always shadows their happiness.
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

    From Bookmarks Magazine
    A Thousand Splendid Suns raises inevitable comparisons to The Kite Runner, which sat on The New York Times best seller list for 103 weeks. Most critics agreed that Khaled Hosseini's second novel is as devastating, if not even more powerful, than his first. A natural, if not always the most eloquent or subtle, storyteller, Hosseini gives voice to two women trying to survive in a despotic household while caught up in the throes of war. Most critics thought that Hosseini successfully evokes his female characters' inner lives—not an easy feat for a male author—while a few observed that Mariam and Laila fail to resonate emotionally. Others noted some melodrama and predictability. Despite these quibbles, the novel offers a chilling, all-too-real portrait Afghan life. "It is, for all its shortcomings, a brave, honorable, big-hearted book" (Washington Post).

    Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

    From Booklist
    *Starred Review* Hosseini's follow-up to his best-selling debut, The Kite Runner (2003) views the plight of Afghanistan during the last half-century through the eyes of two women. Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a maid and a businessman, who is given away in marriage at 15 to Rasheed, a man three times her age; their union is not a loving one. Laila is born to educated, liberal parents in Kabul the night the Communists take over Afghanistan. Adored by her father but neglected in favor of her older brothers by her mother, Laila finds her true love early on in Tariq, a thoughtful, chivalrous boy who lost a leg in an explosion. But when tensions between the Communists and the mujahideen make the city unsafe, Tariq and his family flee to Pakistan. A devastating tragedy brings Laila to the house of Rasheed and Mariam, where she is forced to make a horrific choice to secure her future. At the heart of the novel is the bond between Mariam and Laila, two very different women brought together by dire circumstances. Unimaginably tragic, Hosseini's magnificent second novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength. Readers who lost themselves in The Kite Runner will not want to miss this unforgettable follow-up. Kristine Huntley
    Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

     

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    Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. His first novel, The Kite Runner, was an international bestseller, published in forty countries. In 2006 he was named a U. S. envoy to UNHCR, The United Nations Refugee Agency. His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, will be published on May 22, 2007. He lives in northern California. 



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