Friday, January 4, 2008

The Kite Runner

First of all, a Happy New Year, and to celebrate the new year, I changed my blog's name to something more appropriate for me. I'm a hungry reader and always three-deep at least in books of different genres. If reading were a sport, I'd be in the pro leagues. So I figured amateur reader just wasn't doing it for me. I'm a hungry bookworm. When I was growing up, my parents often had to scold me because I'd be so engrossed in whatever I was reading that I knew nothing about what was going on in the real world in front of me. When we visited family friends with kids, I was forbidden to take out any books from their bookshelves, because my parents knew that I'd be dead to the world, and highly rude to the host kid, because rather than play with them, I'd read by myself. I even used to smuggle a torch into my bedroom and read under the covers till late at night.

Of course, now being the sleep-deprived mother of two, I often wish I could get those sleep-hours back, but I have to admit, even now I often read until late at night. A often wishes he could get away for a reading holiday, but my idea of one would be to pack the kids off on vac and hang out at home reading through all the thousands of books we have collected. Yes, our collection does number thousands now, which includes many that we want to read but simply have not found the time for. This is what happens when a bookworm and hoarder meet a place with no decent library - they create their own!

In keeping with my resolve not to lazily fall into one of half a hundred easy re-reading books, but to actually read the 'recommended' new books, I finally read the Kite Runner when I was travelling on work. The book was gripping, and I felt I was meeting familiar characters because so many of the terms were the same as Hindi words, and so much of the culture seemed similar. The story was haunting, and yet had an inevitability about it - you somehow knew what was going to happen from page 1. Honestly speaking, the Afghan background was not required - the story could have happened in any one of a dozen places in the world, such are the times we live in. I guess it just had to be Afghanistan because tha author is from there.

How do I feel about the book? I liked it, though I saw shades of A Separate Peace in the story, which is a book I loved in high school. I also felt that many of the other characters remained shadow figures, apart from the protagonist. And I didn't really end up figuring out the protagonist either - who he was, what he was like as a person, apart from his guilt and the expiation of it. Apart from the father, who's easily the most complex character in the book and who yet never fully comes into his own, most of the characters are unidimensional and in a way functional to the story - it's as if everything in the story had to be tailored to build up to the particular climax. That works well for a thriller, but I'm not so sure it works in a character-development novel.

It was interesting to read the descriptions of California, though, as I believe Hossaini lives in Sunnyvale, which is where my sister and one of my best-liked Indian authors, Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee lives. Maybe it's something in the water there - will have to drink copious amounts next time and see if that propels me into best-selling author!


RaisingT said...

Hi.. Saw the 'The Kite runner' and couldn't refrain from commenting. I also read it around the same time when I was travelling and I agree with you on the character descriptions. It could have done with more depth but I thought the afghan context was important in understanding such a society at such a time. And I was actually reading Shantaram at the same time so got quite an insight into Afghanistan with the combination of these two books. I also caught the movie soon after reading it in the US, but was disappointed.

bird's eye view said...

Hi raisingt - for some reason comments from this blog don't come into my gmail, so I'm only seeing your comment now.
I'm not sure I would like to watch the movie...somehow movies of books are never as good - except Bridget Jones, which was bang on. Overall it was interesting to gain that perspective into Afghanistan - one know so little of what's actually going on.