Now I am somewhat notorious for blubbing at films, but for some reason (perhaps because I tend to read in short bursts whenever I get a spare moment) it’s much harder for a book to make me shed genuine tears. So when I do weep wholeheartedly, it means the story really must be something special. This is what made it so difficult to choose a favourite book that made me cry, but I have finally selected A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. You can also see the honourable mentions below!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns is set in Afghanistan against a backdrop of political upheaval, violence and oppression. The story revolves around two very different women – Mariam, a shunned illegitimate child, and Laila, independent, well-educated and raised in a loving family. A cruel twist of fate brings the two together, but this is not just a story of hardship. The quietly defiant presence of friendship, love and hope makes for a novel that is not too bleak, yet remains incredibly moving. By the end I was an emotional wreck; an irrefutable affirmation of the power of Hosseini’s storytelling.
7 Reasons Why I Love This Book
1.Endurance of human spirit
The image of Laila running through the streets, enduring abuse and beatings, to spend time with her daughter is one that will stay with me for years to come. Hosseini’s portrayal of strength in the face of adversity is unforgettable.
Often I comment on the depth of characterisation in a novel – although this is the case for A Thousand Splendid Suns, for me, the true gem was the intricately drawn relationships between these characters. In particular, I was moved by the development of Mariam and Laila’s relationship from wariness to solidarity and ultimately love.
When characters in a story suffer so much, the temptation for an author to recompense all in a joyful yet slightly forced and artificial ending must be enormous. The subtlety and ambiguity of A Thousand Splendid Suns reminds us that after such hardship, things can never be perfect again – but, just maybe, they can be okay.
I will avoid all spoilers, but the moment in the novel that reduced me to tears is utterly devastating and will move even the most detached of readers.
5. Female characters
Through Laila and Mariam, with their disparate personalities and contrasting backgrounds, Hosseini acknowledges the cultural complexity of women’s lives in Afghanistan. The strength they display is often quiet and understated, but it is powerful nonetheless.
The novel gives enough of Afghanistan’s political history for readers to understand the story, but never strays into didacticism. Instead, the direct storytelling allows the women’s experiences to speak for themselves.
The language of A Thousand Splendid Suns is for the most part direct, without florid embellishments. However, this is interspersed with poetic moments that convey observations of human nature with an acute intensity.
She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she’d said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery …
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meagre existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”
Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them, they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Cover images courtesy of Goodreads.
Do you have a favourite book that has made you cry? Please do share in the comments!