“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. His first novel “The Kite runner” was a story of two boys whereas a thousand splendid suns is a tale of two oppressed women, Mariam and Laila.
It is a multi-generational story in which the writer has painted the real picture of Afghan women. The main theme of the novel is the rights of women, especially under the Taliban regime.
The story is set in Afghanistan from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Mariam, a young girl in the 1960s, grows up outside Herat, a small city in Afghanistan.
The novel opens with a striking line,
“Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.”
Mariam’s mother Nana calls her Harami as she is her illegitimate daughter with a businessman Jalil. She suffers shame throughout her life due to the circumstances of her birth.
Being afraid of society Jalil does not admit Mariam as her daughter and meets her secretly, once a week.
Mariam’s sufferings begin when she leaves her home to visit her father. But she is not allowed to come in and spends the night outside the house. In meantime, her mother hangs herself in fear of losing her daughter.
Mariam’s father forces her to marry an older man, Rasheed. Mariam moves to Kabul with her husband. Rasheed is a symbol of male authority in Afghanistan. He abuses and tortures her daily and makes her life even more miserable.
Throughout the novel, the writer shares a lot of information about Afghanistan and its people. It reveals that the life of a Kabul woman is much better.
Women are enjoying the rights of education, liberty, and employment. Before the Taliban occupation, Kabul was a symbol of women’s advancement. A cheerful lady, Fariba is an example of a modern lady of Kabul. But her life changes permanently after the death of her two sons in the civil war and soon things fall apart for her whole family.
The novel unfolds the horrors of war on society. The marriage of Rasheed with Fariba’s orphan daughter Laila is an example of it.
After the Taliban occupation in 1996, human rights and women’s rights are brutally violated. The women are denied justice, equality, liberty, education, and employment.
Women are not allowed to go out in public without the company of a male relative, even then, they had to be fully covered with a burqa. Otherwise, there is severe punishment for disobeying these rigid rules. Laila endures several beatings from the Taliban when they catch her going alone to visit her daughter Aziza in an orphanage.
When Mariam and Laila try to escape from their home. The Taliban capture them, disregard their complaints of violence and send them back home.
Eventually, both ladies kill Rasheed in self-defense. Mariam does what a mother would do: and sacrifices her life for Laila and Laila’s family.
At the end of the novel Laila realizes that,
“Mariam is in Laila’s own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of a thousand suns”.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns A Tale of Oppressed Women. - 19/09/2021