Saturday, June 09, 2007

Two Things in Common

The two books I just finished have two things in common: maternal sacrifice and the fact that I could predict most of the events; however, the feelings I had after finishing each book couldn't be farther apart.

The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble: I was looking for something light, plus the structure of this novel appealed to me. The chapters are based on a book the group is reading during a particular month. I also liked the books they chose (Ian McEwan's Atonement, Willa Cather's My Antonia, and Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca are a few.) The women begin talking about the books, but their discussions always devolve into stories about their lives. I think you're supposed to be able to thematically tie what happens in each woman's life to the book of the month, but the links are too tenuous. For me, the characters felt flat -- I had a hard time distinguishing one from the other, and they all could be easily labeled -- Clare, the infertile one; Nicole, the woman who stays with a cheating husband; Harriet, the one who doesn't realize what she has; and Polly, the one who finds joy in sacrificing her life for her child. Plus, I think there are more women but I can't remember who they are. Blah.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: This seems like simply the tale of two women who learn to love each other and value their friendship over the course of several years, but it's so much more than that. It's the history of Afghanistan from Soviet rule to the Taliban to the present. It's also a commentary on the state of marriage in Afghanistan -- what men could do to women inside the bounds of marriage and never be held accountable for. And last, it's a book about the necessity of having a purpose in life. Hosseini's writing style is clear, concise and just lovely in this novel. The story is told in several parts -- first is Mariam's story. She is the illegitimate daughter of a rich man and is forced into marriage when her mother dies. Second is Leila, the daughter of progressive parents, who is forced into marriage with Mariam's husband when her parents are killed. The third part is their life together. Like The Reading Group, maternal sacrifice is a consideration but I didn't think in my head, "Oh, honestly!" when it becomes an issue. It tops my list of favorite books ever read, let alone, favorite book of the year.


Hilda said...

WOW! That's quite a recommendation for "A Thousand Splendid Suns"! So, I gather he succeeds in writing womens' perspectives. By saying it tops your list of favorite books ever then it means you liked it better than "The Kite Runner"! Is that right?

As a matter of fact Hosseini will be in Miami reading from the book and I was trying to decide whether to go see him. It's a ticketed event where you get a ticket when you buy the book and I wasn't planning to buy the book right now. Now, I'm thinking maybe I will.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Katya said...

Hilda: I loved The Kite Runner and I did like A Thousand Splendid Suns so much more than The Kite Runner. I believe that he did succeed it writing women's perspectives, which always really shocks me from a male writer.

BabelBabe said...

will go buy Hosseini's new book immediately upon your recc. I LOVED Kite Runner, and expected to love this one as well. Thanks for the confirmation.

If you want to read a decent book-group book, try The Jane Austen Book Club. I recall it being good.

Iamthebookworm said...

That was pretty much my reaction to The Reading Group. I put it on a book list, but for the life of me I can't remember the characters. Other people have told me good things about A Thousand Splendid Suns too. I am going to reserve that one now!

Thanks for linking to me! I added you to my blogroll

Katya said...

bb: I'll try the Jane Austen one. I hope you like A Thousand Splendid Suns.

iamthebookworm: I always like to have the links to blogs I like to read handy. I hope you like the new Hosseini book as well.

nutmeg said...

That's a big recommendation! I really did like A Thousand Splendid Suns (8.5 is a high score for me) but I had a few niggles with it - but nothing that would stop me recommending it. What about that list of Taliban dos and don'ts? Unbelievable!

What are you reading next? I may be reading it too ;-)

Katya said...

That Taliban lists of do's and don'ts was amazing. I think it really brought home to me how restricted women were. I understand your niggles with it -- I read your review and they make sense. Your review was more comprehensive -- I left out the things that bothered me -- like why did Rasheed have to be repulsive all the way around? Looks as well as behaviour -- I know that happens but it would have been more powerful if his repulsiveness had slowly developed.

Lazy cow said...

As I've been avoiding reading The Kite Runner for the past couple of years, I'm being 'forced' to read it this month for my bookgroup. Your glowing recommendation to his latest book is making me feel a lot better about this task :-)