Friday, 19 July 2013

Book review: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

(No spoilers)

In one word, I'd say it was disappointing.

Having read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I had formed an opinion about Khaled Hosseini as a master story-teller, someone who can twist your heart and make your eyes swell up with tears by just playing with words. When my copy of And The Mountains Echoed arrived, I was really eager to read it because I expected it to be like his other two books, a heart wrenching yet beautiful story.

And The Mountains Echoed is, in the beginning, the story of two siblings who are forced to be separated from each other. It opens in the fictional village of Shadbagh, and from there the author takes the readers to many places including Kabul, Paris and San Francisco. Pari and her elder brother Abdullah, as inseparable as Juno's swans, are eventually estranged by fate.

The story, all in all, was a touching one. He manages to make us feel the plight of his characters' hardships and how the choices they have to make change their lives forever. Afghanistan is, like his other two books, very well portrayed in this one too. The love between the two siblings and the sacrifices they have to make strike a chord somewhere.

Hosseini has experimented in this book, by shifting from the conventional single person and single tense narration to alternating between first person and third person, and switching from the past to present multiple times within a chapter. I'm not sure if this worked out too well. It made the book pretty confusing for me.

In the beginning, he introduces the main characters and makes the readers create a bond with them, only to leave it there. As the novel progresses, it gets multi-layered with additions of new characters in almost every chapter. As a reader, I found it difficult to connect with them. The book spans over three generations (fifty-five years, I believe) and too many places. Irrelevant chapters seemed to keep dragging on, while I was more concerned about what was happening to other older characters. Too many simultaneous stories, unnecessary characters and changes make the book a rather tiring and complex read. The ending was hushed up, and it seemed like it was struggling to gain pace after a couple of slow chapters. I, for one, felt like I was being made to aimlessly wander through superfluous details.

While And The Mountains Echoed is a good stand-alone book, it wouldn't be on my list of favourite books.