"When a book begins with.......
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." Jelaluddin Rumi. So then, you want a story and I will tell you one!
You just know that you have a great book in your hands - and so it was with And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
He has two previous bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns - Mr Hosseini is a truly gifted teller of tales who is not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing.
This is a story that spans generations, yet starts and finishes with the same characters. In 1952 a father and his two young children are travelling across Afghanistan, father has been promised some much needed work. The children; Abdullah and his little sister Pari are happy to be together, they adore each other and Abdullah has become more of a parent than a brother to Pari. When their mother died just after giving birth to Pari and then their father re-married and new half-siblings joined the family, Abdullah took on the protection and care of Pari. Neither of them can know that this journey will be the beginning of heartbreak that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
With heart-breaking realism, Hosseini tells the tale of a family split apart by poverty and desperation. From the small rural villages to the large bustling cities of Afghanistan, the writing transports the reader into the heart of the story, experiencing the sounds, the smells and the changing political landscapes. From immense poverty, to the greatest riches. From the modest and humble, to the arrogant and the proud, the cast of characters are a triumph.That one event in Kabul in 1952 leads on to many others, including characters and settings from Paris, to the Greek Islands and back to Afghanistan. Characters who appear, on the face of it, to be so different and so diverse are all connected in one way or another to the day that a loving father told his two small children the story of farmer Baba Ayub - it is this story, and its meaning that is threaded through the whole novel and which eventually turns from a fable to the truth.
Whilst And The Mountains Echoed does not have the shock-factor of Hosseini's two previous novels, it is still a very important epic story that will leave a mark on anyone who reads it. The cast of characters is huge and the narrative often slips back and forward, which can at times, appear a little disjointed. However, this really does not detract from the story, or from the wonderfully evocative writing.
Once again, Khaled Hosseini has produced a story that will break hearts and leave his fans, new and old, gasping for more. I loved it!
My second read this month is by Lisa Genova - also a third successful novel! This time its a book about friendship and a mother coping with the loss of her autistic son
Olivia Donatelli's dream of a 'normal' life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn't speak. He hated to be touched. He almost never made eye contact. And just as Olivia was starting to realise that happiness and autism could coexist, Anthony died. Now she's alone in a cottage on Nantucket, separated from her husband, desperate to understand the meaning of her son's short life, when a chance encounter with another woman facing her own loss brings Anthony alive again for Olivia in a most unexpected way. In a piercing story about motherhood, love and female friendship, Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change who discover the small but exuberant voice that helps them both find the answers they need. It is beautifully written and poignantly observed and really heartwarming. I sped through this book in a matter of days but some of the writing is so beautiful I have returned to it a few times to read sections - Stunning!
I have yet to start my third book - a stormy night and my electric blanket awaits! This is what Amazon says about it.
"This is a superb, moving and insightful book about war and its effects on the men and women who take part in it. The author, Kevin Powers, is a veteran of Iraq in 2004 where this book is set and is now a poet. This combination of first-hand experience and ability with language coupled with great insight and honesty creates something quite remarkable. The book is narrated in the first person by private John Bartle on his first tour of duty in Iraq. The language is heightened throughout, often poetic and sometimes almost hallucinatory. The timescale moves between his time in Iraq, his pre-tour training and his homecoming and after. The story is really that of Bartle's psychological journey and is quite stunning in its evocation of the war itself and of the state of mind of the young man who went through it. It is deceptively quiet in tone with even the violent action (of which there is relatively little) described without hysteria, and this lends it a remarkable power to convey things like fear, exhaustion, the rush of excitement and the dreadful problems of reintegrating once home. All this may sound forbidding, turgid or preachy but it isn't at all. This is an engrossing, readable book which is quite short but has immense impact and which will stay with me for a very long time. I think this genuinely belongs among great war books such as All Quiet On the Western Front and Dispatches. I could give a long list of examples of how thoughtful, insightful and honest it is, but I will just say that I recommend that you read it. It is truly exceptional and you will never forget it."
It looks like a hat trick for me this month when it comes to books.
Now to Shakespear's Sisters Book Club. At our July meeting we laughed a lot - A delicious dinner was served by our excellent hostess. I am still trying to remember what we laughed at.... We had a guest of honour Sally and that was a great catch up for members who know her and - Oh and a discussion around Oscar. I am still trying to remember what we laughed at.....We spoke about the up and coming travel plans for some of our members to the Ireland and Spain but I am still trying to remember why we laughed so much..... I know the three bummed cat was mentioned and that is to be our theme for the next bookclub. You will find us on the prowl in Summerstrand early in September Meiow!