A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Overview
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a 2007 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Afghan-American
Afghan American
An Afghan American refers to an American with heritage or origins in Afghanistan.-History and population:Afghan Americans have a long history of immigrating to the United States, as they may have arrived as early as the 1920s...

 author Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini , is an Afghan-born American novelist and physician of ethnic Tajik origin. He is a citizen of the United States where he has lived since he was fifteen years old. His 2003 debut novel, The Kite Runner, was an international bestseller, selling more than 12 million copies worldwide....

. It is his second, following his bestselling
Bestseller
A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains. Some lists are broken down into classifications and...

 2003 debut, The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner is a novel by Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, it is Hosseini's first novel, and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007....

. The book focuses on the tumultuous lives of two Afghan women and how their lives cross each other, spanning from the 1960s to 2003. The book was released on May 22, 2007, and received favorable prepublication reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents...

, Library Journal
Library Journal
Library Journal is a trade publication for librarians. It was founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey . It reports news about the library world, emphasizing public libraries, and offers feature articles about aspects of professional practice...

, and Booklist
Booklist
Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages. It is geared toward libraries and booksellers and is available in print or online...

, as well as reaching #2 on Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

's bestseller list before its release.

The title of the book comes from a line in the Josephine Davis translation of the poem "Kabul", by the 17th-century Iranian poet Saib Tabrizi:
Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls


The novel is divided into four parts.
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Encyclopedia
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a 2007 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Afghan-American
Afghan American
An Afghan American refers to an American with heritage or origins in Afghanistan.-History and population:Afghan Americans have a long history of immigrating to the United States, as they may have arrived as early as the 1920s...

 author Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini , is an Afghan-born American novelist and physician of ethnic Tajik origin. He is a citizen of the United States where he has lived since he was fifteen years old. His 2003 debut novel, The Kite Runner, was an international bestseller, selling more than 12 million copies worldwide....

. It is his second, following his bestselling
Bestseller
A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains. Some lists are broken down into classifications and...

 2003 debut, The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner is a novel by Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, it is Hosseini's first novel, and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007....

. The book focuses on the tumultuous lives of two Afghan women and how their lives cross each other, spanning from the 1960s to 2003. The book was released on May 22, 2007, and received favorable prepublication reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents...

, Library Journal
Library Journal
Library Journal is a trade publication for librarians. It was founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey . It reports news about the library world, emphasizing public libraries, and offers feature articles about aspects of professional practice...

, and Booklist
Booklist
Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages. It is geared toward libraries and booksellers and is available in print or online...

, as well as reaching #2 on Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

's bestseller list before its release.

Title


The title of the book comes from a line in the Josephine Davis translation of the poem "Kabul", by the 17th-century Iranian poet Saib Tabrizi:
Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Summary


The novel is divided into four parts. The first part focuses exclusively on Mariam, the second and fourth parts focus on Laila, and the third part switches focus between Mariam and Laila with each chapter.

Mariam lives in a kolba
Hut (dwelling)
A hut is a small and crude shelter, usually used for dwelling. Its design favors local techniques and materials to allow for swift and inexpensive construction.-Modern use:...

on the outskirts of Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

 with her mother. Jalil, her father, is a wealthy man who lives in town with three wives and nine children. Because Mariam is his illegitimate daughter, she cannot live with them, but Jalil visits her every Thursday. On her fifteenth birthday, Mariam wants her father to take her to see Pinocchio
Pinocchio (1940 film)
Pinocchio is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the story The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. It is the second film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, and it was made after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and was released to theaters by...

at his movie theater. When he does not show up, she hikes into town and goes to his house. He refuses to see her, and she ends up sleeping on the porch. In the morning, Mariam returns home to find that her mother has hanged herself out of fear that her daughter has deserted her. Mariam is then taken to live in her father's house. Jalil arranges for her to be married to Rasheed, a shoemaker from Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 who is thirty years her senior. In Kabul, Mariam becomes pregnant seven successive times, but is never able to carry a child to term, and Rasheed gradually becomes more abusive.

In the same neighborhood live a girl named Laila and a boy named Tariq, who are close friends, but careful of social boundaries. War comes to Afghanistan, and Kabul is bombarded by rocket attacks. Tariq's family decides to leave the city, and the emotional farewell between Laila and Tariq ends with them making love. Laila's family also decides to leave Kabul, but as they are packing a rocket destroys the house, kills her parents, and severely injures Laila. Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam.

After recovering from her injuries, Laila discovers that she is pregnant with Tariq's child. After being told that Tariq is dead, she agrees to marry Rasheed, who is eager to have a young and attractive second wife, and hopes to have a child with her. When Laila gives birth to a daughter, Aziza, Rasheed is displeased and suspicious, and he soon becomes abusive toward Laila. Mariam and Laila eventually become confidantes and best friends. They plan to run away from Rasheed and leave Kabul, but they are caught at the bus station. Rasheed beats them and deprives them of water for several days, almost killing Aziza.

A few years later, Laila gives birth to Zalmai, Rasheed's son. The Taliban has risen to power, and there is a drought, and living conditions in Kabul become poor. Rasheed's workshop burns down, and he is forced to take jobs for which he is ill-suited. Rasheed sends Aziza to an orphanage. Then one day, Tariq appears outside the house. He and Laila are reunited, and their passions flare anew. When Rasheed returns home from work, Zalmai tells his father about the visitor. Rasheed starts to savagely beat Laila and Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel. Afterwards, Mariam confesses to killing Rasheed, in order to draw attention away from Laila and Tariq, and is executed, while Laila and Tariq leave for Pakistan with Aziza and Zalmai.

After the fall of the Taliban, Laila and Tariq return to Afghanistan. They stop in the village where Mariam was raised, and discover a package that Mariam's father left behind for her: a videotape of Pinocchio, a small pile of money and a letter. Laila reads the letter and discovers that Jalil regretted sending Mariam away. Laila and Tariq return to Kabul and fix up the orphanage, where Laila starts working as a teacher. Laila is pregnant with her third child, and if it is a girl, it is suggested she will be named Mariam.

Characters


In order of appearance:
  • Mariam, is an ethnic Tajik born in Herat, 1959. She is the illegitimate child of Jalil and Nana, and suffers shame throughout her childhood because of the circumstances of her birth.
  • Nana is Mariam's mother, who used to be a servant in Jalil's house and had an affair with him. She hangs herself when Mariam is fifteen, after Mariam journeys to Jalil's house on her birthday, which Nana perceives to be betrayal.
  • Mullah Faizullah, a Sufi
    Sufism
    Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

    , is Mariam's elderly Koran teacher and friend. He dies of natural causes in 1989.
  • Jalil is Mariam's father, a wealthy man who had three wives before he had an affair with Nana. He marries Mariam to Rasheed after Nana's death, but later regrets sending her away. He dies in 1987.
  • Laila is an ethnic Tajik. Born in 1978 to Hakim and Fariba, she is a beautiful and intelligent girl coming from a family in which the father is university-educated and a teacher. Her life becomes tied to Mariam's when she marries Rasheed as his second wife.Towards the end of the novel she becomes a school teacher.
  • Hakim is Laila's father. He is a well-educated and progressive school teacher. He is killed in a rocket explosion along with Fariba.
  • Fariba is Laila's mother. In Part One, during her brief meeting with Mariam, she is shown as cheerful, but her happy nature is brutally disrupted when her two sons, Ahmad and Noor, leave home to go to war and are later killed. She spends nearly all of her time in bed mourning her sons until the Mujahideen are victorious. She is killed in a rocket explosion along with Hakim.
  • Rasheed is an ethnic Pashtun
    Pashtun people
    Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

    , a shoemaker, and the antagonist of the novel. He marries Mariam through an arrangement with Jalil and later marries Laila as well. After suffering years of domestic abuse at his hands, Mariam bludgeons Rasheed to death with a shovel during a violent struggle.
  • Tariq, an ethnic Pashtun born in 1976, is a boy who grew up in Kabul with Laila. He lost a leg to a land mine at age 5. They eventually evolve from best friends to lovers and, after a decade of separation, are married and expecting a child by the end of the novel.
  • Aziza is the daughter of Laila and Tariq, conceived when Laila was 14. Her conception incites Laila to marry Rasheed when the news of Tariq's alleged death arrives; she does this in order to hide the child's illegitimacy and provide for herself. Aziza is born in the spring of 1993 and becomes a peacemaking figure between Mariam and Laila when her cries for Mariam's attention trigger Mariam's maternal instinct and respect for Laila.
  • Zalmai, born in September 1997, is Laila and Rasheed's spoiled son. Despite the conditions presented onto his mother and figurative aunt (Mariam), Zalmai idolizes Rasheed and is unaware of the fact that Mariam killed him. At the end of the novel, Zalmai continuously asks about Rasheed to Laila, who lies to him saying he simply left for some time. After initially blaming Tariq for his father's mysterious disappearance, he comes to accept Tariq as a father-figure.

Critical reaction


Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine's Lev Grossman
Lev Grossman
Lev Grossman is an American novelist and journalist, notably the author of the novels Warp , Codex , The Magicians and The Magician King...

 placed it at number three in the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2007, and praised it as a "dense, rich, pressure-packed guide to enduring the unendurable." Jonathan Yardley
Jonathan Yardley
Jonathan Yardley is a book critic at The Washington Post, and at one time of the Washington Star. In 1981 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.-Background and education:...

 said in the Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

"Book World": "Just in case you're wondering whether Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is as good as The Kite Runner, here's the answer: No. It's better."

The study guide points to these reference films to compare with the book, 16 Days in Afghanistan
16 Days in Afghanistan
16 Days in Afghanistan is a groundbreaking documentary about the journey of Afghan-American Anwar Hajher traveling to his homeland Afghanistan after 25 years to rediscover his country. The film is produced by Mithaq Kazimi and is the first documentary since the fall of Taliban to be shot in those...

, Beyond Belief
Beyond Belief
Beyond Belief may refer to:In film, television and radio:* Beyond Belief , a short film featuring the band Petra* Beyond Belief , a documentary about two 9/11 widows...

, Osama
Osama (film)
Osama is a 2003 film made in Afghanistan by Siddiq Barmak. It is about a girl living in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime who disguises herself as a boy, Osama, to support her family. It was the first film to be shot entirely in Afghanistan since 1996, when the Taliban régime banned the...

, and Kandahar.

Film


Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

 owns the movie rights to the novel, but production has yet to begin; Steven Zaillian
Steven Zaillian
Steven Ernest Bernard Zaillian is an American screenwriter, film director, film editor, producer, and founder of Film Rites, a film production company. He won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Schindler's List and he has been nominated two times for Awakenings and Gangs of New York...

 is currently writing a screenplay and is also slated to direct, Scott Rudin
Scott Rudin
Scott Rudin is an American film producer and a theatrical producer.-Early life and work:Scott Rudin was born in New York City, NY, on July 14, 1958, and raised in the town of Baldwin on Long Island. At the age of sixteen, he started working as an assistant to theatre producer Kermit Bloomgarden...

 has signed on as a producer.

External links