Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Kite Runner


The Kite Runner is one of the best books I have read. In essence, it is a tale of guilt and redemption but is written with such honesty and simplicity that it turns out to be a true roller coaster ride of emotions and feelings.

The book is populated with some of the most vivid and beautifully-realised characters I have ever come across in a book. Hosseini's descriptions of their physical and character traits make them so complete that they seem to jump right off the pages. We picture them in our minds and get the feeling that we've actually known them all our life. We form an emotional bond with them and that makes everything they go through surprisingly real. The narrator's guilt, his father's pride, his friend's loyalty - these characteristics make them living, breathing people we get to know intimately.

The story provides the opportunity for the characters to run through a gamut of emotions and Hosseini's talent lies in describing these emotions with great clarity. This leads to some very powerful sequences. The 'big' sequences are expected. They are designed to get a reaction from us. But there are several smaller, unexpected incidents that have a similar impact. My favorite was one towards the end of the book where the author feels good about gifting his watch to the children in the house he stays in before realizing just how wrong he was about what they wanted. Moments like this truly make the book soar.

The book's big surprise is easily predicted but it still hides a number of smaller surprises in its pages. But the big surprise helps the book traverse a path that illustrates the truth in the 'Circle of Life' concept. As similar events get replayed, with some old and some new players, the book achieves a sense of real closure. The ending is still not definitive but hints at positive beginnings in a way that is truly exhilarating.

The book could easily stand on its own as a character-driven tale. But the Afghanistan setting adds something special to the mix. The unique culture lends a nice flavor to the proceedings early on and the tumultous changes the country went through provides a fascinating backdrop to the story. It is obvious Hosseini loves his country and he brings its decline before our eyes with his descriptions of both its land and its people. The state of the country when he returns also adds a sense of adventure and urgency to the proceedings.

Regular readers, move this book right to the top of your to-read list. And non-readers, give this book a shot to understand the sheer pleasure that arises out of immersing yourself in a good book.

PS: As a side note, the book included a few things familiar to me. The kite-flying contest includes a description of how to make manja - bringing back memories of the days of kite-flying from the mottai maadi of our house in Madras. And in America, the action is set in the neighboring city of Fremont.

PS2: Thanks to Mitr for bringing the book to my notice.

24 Comments:

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've noticed this book which has been in the best seller list for a while now - it never occurred to me to pick it up. But maybe now I will!

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Thanks Balaji for mentioning me. Glad you enjoyed the book,I really liked Khaled Hosseini's personalized writing style. He really did a commendable job in portraying Amir and Hassan as real life characters.

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous ram said...

i just dont have a reading habit, much to the dismay of my Mum, a voracious reader! but having read your finely written review, i'll see if i can get my hands on it...the content seems to be intriguing and seems to be my cup of tea...i love to immerse myself in the world of nicely written characters, just that cinema is the only medium that i've been interested in, till now...but idhule ennamo irukku pola irukkey...
bb, btw, the story i've been scripting for awhile now is titled "Jothi's Candles." any thots on the title?
ram

 
At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good and simple Book. Could n't complete till the end(left when amir visits pakistan in search of
his friend's son). It's totally refreshing reading this one after all thoose fullpace fiction ones.

Author belongs to some where in bay area.

Anyhow if you guys havn't read 'THE DA VINCI CODE' try it, very good one.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Guys, if you can, read "Tools of the Trade: The Art and Craft of Carpentry" by Jeff Taylor. Regardless of whether you have interest in Carpentry, I promise you that you won't put it down.

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Ram said...

"the story i've been scripting for awhile now is titled "Jothi's Candles." any thots on the title?
"

How many candles? heh...heh :) Anyway, it sounds deep, dude.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, the book was released in 2003(i think) and is now out in softcover. And its still on the bestseller lists.

mitr, u're welcome. r u reading anything now?

ram, highly recommend u giving it a shot. i'd all but given up on my wife completing a novel after she didn't finish the 1st 'harry potter'. but she was hooked on this one and we actually fought over it since we were reading it @ the same time.
interesting title. can't guess the kind of story it is :)

anon, u should defly get your hands on it and finish it. the ending is absolutely awesome!
and yeah, I read DVC a long time ago. enjoyed it though i liked 'angels and demons' better...

gopi, interesting title. let me read up on that one.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger bl@her said...

Off track, I read "Pather panchali" by Bibhuthibhushan Banerji, and I liked the book better than the Satyajit Ray movie itself!!! Also, in the same lines, "The Man and the skeleton" by Amrita Pritam was much more gripping than the movie "Pinjar"!! Wondering whether I should go back to books from movies...

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anu, i was thinking on a separate post about this but i don't think i've ever seen a movie(based on a book) that had anywhere close to the impact the book had. i think the reason is that books leave so many things to our imagination while movies are forced to visualize everything on screen. and however well filmmakers do their job, they just can't match our imagination :)
i'll list some examples in the post(gotta leave something for it!) :)

 
At 2:16 PM, Anonymous ram said...

gopi, indha nakkals of america thaane venam-ngarathu...;) deep-aa shallow-aa nu kadhai mudichadhukku apram anupren...padichuttu sollunge;)

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Its amazing how you guys find all these nice books.! Looks like an interesting read. I have to now research about this author..to see what else he has written..etc.

Manja/Deal/katadi/soostharam/ andha naal nyabagam nenjile vandhade.!! nanbare..nanbare.!!

 
At 8:14 PM, Blogger Babs said...

Anon,
I knew few guys who wud carry DVC when they travel overseas as it used to be chick magnet :) (no disrespect Ladies), not any more. I liked the book but the characters and plot was weak. Well it didn't matter anyways as the fictional facts he dwelt did.
Actually I'm eager to see how the movie is going turn out, great casting (exactly how I imagined the characters while I was reading Da Vinci) and respected Director too (Ron Howard).

Balaji,
I'm currently reading "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C Clarke, if you haven't I highly recommend it. One of the best Sci-Fi ever written.
I know its very hard to adapt a book to screen, let alone expecting it to have the similar effect. Nonetheless there are few good movies which has done justice if not better eg: Shawshank Redemption (by Stephen King, which was only a chapter in his short stories), God father (Puzo's, good he involved too much in the making :), Mystic River (Lehan's, but Clint did a great job...he has got the Knack to pick the right novel for adaptation), so on. We read a book for days (live with the character as we imagine), but we watch the movies only for hours (thats like brain Wasabi, effect only sustain few hours). My point being we have to watch the good ones quite few times to understand every character and leave the imagination to work as we rehrease :).

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

narayanan, this is the author's first book. in fact, i read somewhere that it is the first originally english(as in not translated) novel to come out of Afghanistan. The author's next book is coming out in 2006 summer.

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger Ambi said...

Looks like a nice book to read! The book I last read was "Who Moved My Cheese?" I know you are saying only now! But I liked the idea very much. People who are stuck in one place should read that book.

 
At 11:11 PM, Blogger vee-jay said...

Haven't read a book in the last 4 months :(
Well, will try to get hold of this one and start reading!!!

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

babs, sci-fi is the 1 genre i have never attempted to read yet. Does the 'Rama' in that title refer to our own Rama? Quite an intriguing title :) will check it out.

i'm surprised u liked the casting of DVC. I like Tom Hanks but just don't think he'd fit Langdon(atleast how i pictured him).

nice examples of good movies from books there :) but as i looked @ the list, i realized i haven't both read the book and seen the movie for any of them! I haven't seen 'godfather'(yeah, i know!) while i haven't read 'shawshank redemption' or 'mystic river'. my observation was based purely on movies whose books i've read like harry potter, coma, timeline, jurassic park, etc. u make a good point regarding the time difference in the 2. may well be the reason.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ambi, thanx for stopping by. i've heard about that book before but non-fiction's never attracted me as much as fiction.

vee-jay, good idea :) i found too many holds on the book in the library and so just bought it(actually my wife gifted me 'fountainhead' for my bday and i xchanged it for this since i thot i wasn't ready for 'fountainhead' yet!). absolutely no regrets :)
and come back and lemme know what u thot about the book once u finish it :)

 
At 1:19 AM, Blogger Babs said...

Balaji,
Actually No, Rama is a thirty-mile-long cylindrical Metallic thingy that passes through Earth's solar system on its way to hit the sun (I dont want to give away any more). I'm still reading but heard that why Rama is convincing in the end.

I want to ask this, I have heard quite few indians say that, i.e not interested in Sci-Fi dunno why though, may be its a culture thingy too :) (may be not) but I enjoy sci-fi as much as any other genre (any yeah fiction tops the list).

Well I was more talking about Jean Reno as Bezu, Ian as Teabing and Alfred (Spider Man 2 Octavius) as Aringarosa and I did like Hanks too and I know few ppl here didn't like him as Langdon either but comon who else is better or convincing wearing a walt disney watch :-D.

OK pls do me favour, rent God Father dvd tomm and lemme know wat u think day after plsssss ;-)

 
At 6:09 AM, Anonymous vijays said...

If you liked Kite Runner, then you will also like Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It's a truly wonderful read!

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Balaji- Not reading anything great for the moment, but planning to pick up The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Guess it is a collection of short stories or something to do with how visiting parents find it hard to adjust to the living style of their US based children. Read about it in some blog.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

babs, the title's a lot less intriguing now :)
i realized later that the other genre i have never tried reading is horror. i read thrillers almost exclusively. its only recently that i've branched out to non-thriller fiction.
'godfather' is definitely on my to-see list(as are a lot of other classics). just not sure when i'm gonna get to them :)

vijays, quite a coincidence. i just bought 'life of pi' since i had a coupon at borders. haven't started reading it yet. right now in the middle of 'q & a'(again a book i learnt of from a commentor).

mitr, i remember reading something about that book during one of my bloghops. i'll wait for u to read it first :)

 
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At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently read this book and you have captured all that I *felt* while reading the book wonderfully well in this review.

If possible, pick up the second book from the same author "A Thousand Splendid Suns". This plot is also set in Afghanistan, but is about two women and their respective lives.

- Ananth

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

Ananth, thank you. it is definitely one of my favorite novels. I have read 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' also. I've written about it here

 

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