Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review : And the Mountains Echoed

Author : Khaled HOSSEINI
Title : And the Mountains Echoed
Format : ebook
ISBN : 978-1-4088-4244-7
Published : 21/05/2013
Publisher : Bloomsbury

An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
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I didn't plan to read And the Mountains Echoed this year. If I am completely honest, I have to admit that the release in 2013 of Khaled Hosseini's last novel never even registered on my radar. Which is something I can't quite explain, because he is a great author and The Kite Runner is undoubtedly one of my favourite novels. So, it is rather fortunate that And the Mountains Echoed happened to be the group read of the 2014 Reading Challenge Group on Goodreads, because otherwise I would have missed out on a great novel.

Hosseini is proving yet again to be an excellent storyteller, who reels you in to a world of well developed characters and exotic locations, grabbing your attention from the first page and not releasing you until you close the cover with regret, shedding a few tears along the way. 

Women in Kabul 1970's - Source : La Magia de las Pequeñas Cosas
Just as in his previous novels, the key to the story of And the Mountains echoed  lies in Afghanistan, the country it was before it became the playground of superpowers and religious extremists, before a time when the mere mention of the country's name evokes images of intolerable cruelty and violence.  On a side note, whenever I think of pre-war Afghanistan, I have this image popping up in my mind.  It is a picture taken by an unknown photographer that I happened to come across a few years ago. 

The set-up from And the Mountains echoed is different from most novels in so far that it doesn't follow a linear timeline nor does it narrate from a single point of view. In theory, this could make it difficult for the reader to relate to the protagonists, but on the contrary, because every chapter took me into the mind and life of another character, in another time and another location, all fleshed out in detail with strong points and flaws, I couldn't help but feel connected to a character, whom I loathed in a previous chapter.  And although the individual stories could be considered stand alone stories, there is always a seemingly unimportant detail that links them all together, which is clear for the omniscient reader but remains just out of grasp of the chapter's protagonist : an multi-centennial oak tree, a scorched picture, an old tin tea box  ...

“I found a sad little fairy
Beneath the shade of a paper tree.
I know a sad little fairy
Who was blown away by the wind one night.”
― Nursery rhyme sung by Pari & Abdullah  (And the Mountains Echoed)

It is a story of about the choices people make out of necessity, vanity or moral duty and the rippling effect those choices have on the lifes of those directly involved as well as those who just happen to be passing through, expanding outward across decades and generations. This beautiful and moving novel left me with a incredible feeling of sadness when I reached the end of it.  Although I wasn't expecting a Hollywoodian happy ending, the final chapter felt like an injustice to the struggles and hopes the main characters had lived through to reach that point. "Life's unfair" is one way to put it.

Is it really better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all ?  I wonder ...


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