It was a March Mayhem- exams, hectic term ending schedules, fatigue and figuring what I really wanted to read for my monthly Reading Challenge. Now that was a challenge in true sense.
I picked ‘And the mountains echoed’ by the March born Khaled Hosseini. I was curious about it as I remember enjoying both his earlier fares. Plus the title really called out to me.
Anyway, contrary to all the reviews I read (curiosity can be a devil especially if you have a genie called Google by your side), I’m glad I didn’t abandon it. A Thousand Splendid Suns was a distant memory for me so I wasn’t constantly comparing, unlike everyone else.
It was a slow read to begin with but once I figured out that the story was propelled by multiple points of view, it fascinated me. I was reminded of the TV programme Six degrees of separation on National Geographic Channel where characters introduced in the passing subsequently become protagonists, hence the title. The TV narrative of course had a happy vibe, the book ones on the other hand were all tinged with longing and sadness.
Yet I couldn’t deny the magic of Khaled’s writing. His words had a lyrical quality that created these vivid images in my mind; the bleak, desolate landscape of Afghanistan, the prosperous, bustling Kabul, Kabul transformed into a war zone, the bastions built by war lords. There was Paris, Greece and San Francisco too but they did not make a similar impact.
As for the tales, I was most invested in the story of four year old Pari and ten year old Abdullah, siblings who are separated early in the book. With each character getting only a chapter or two, their reappearance takes forever and when it happens, they are much older and unrecognisable.
Sadly the long awaited reunion lacked the fizz, it was bittersweet and quite late.
Maybe the book could have done with less meandering and characters. Still it was interesting to empathise with them as their compulsions came into forefront, justifying the choices they made.
In fact with so many characters tugging for my attention with their poignant tales, it felt more like a treasury of short stories than a novel.
At the end of the day, what really left me awestruck was Khaled the wordsmith who conjured up these worlds that came alive on the page.
Now that’s beauty.
PS: I’ll be taking a break from the present Reading Challenge.
I’m instead looking for books with stories set in Italy or Sweden as a part of my research. If you can think of any, please do share in the comments.
Till next time, ciao!