because bibliophiles require refreshment

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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And the Mountains Echoed is a complicated story that starts with a journey across Afghanistan and follows the ramifications of that journey over the following fifty-odd years. It’s a different kind of novel than I normally read – not just because I don’t normally indulge in Afghani fiction. I’m more used to straight narratives – and this is more complicated than that. Woven like a tapestry, it doesn’t fully reveal itself until the end. For me, it was one of those books that I didn’t always love the process of reading but I was really pleased with the final product.

I passed my copy of this book on to a fellow reading friend last evening and she asked me what I thought. After a pause, I said it was a journey worth taking but a mysterious one for sure. We’d both read Hosseini’s other famous works and preferred A Thousand Splendid Suns over The Kite Runner – probably because we also both prefer narratives of young women to narratives about young boys. But nonetheless, I felt I had to tell her this one was different. I read A Thousand Splendid Suns ages ago, so my affection for it is more of a memory or impression rather than actual details. It’s perhaps more epistolary than I remember, honestly I don’t know. Upon memory, I would still say A Thousand Splendid Suns is my favorite of the three, but it would be closely followed by And the Mountains Echoed.

When I observed the full tapestry, I was so pleased with how I had been drawn into this world. I appreciated the honesty in which he portrayed pre and post wars Afghanistan and how he articulated the issues for citizens in each. I appreciated how he separated out the issues when the Russians invaded versus the Americans and I felt like I was possibly accessing authentic opinions.

This book is not a breezy read – the pattern of the prose and the structure of the book requires this one be digested slowly. And is only possibly culturally appropriate, this one demands to be enjoyed with a proper cup of tea. If you have the time and inclination, here is a recipe for Afghan Tea.

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Further Reading:

  • Afghan fiction: Goodreads’s list of their best rated books.
  • War of the 2000s: BBC History provides a summary of the most recent conflict in the country
  • Afghan Culture Unveiled: I was entranced by so many of the tiny details of culture described in the book that I went poking around the internet to learn more. This website took up a few hours of my time, reading all the back entries. I’d recommend it highly.

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I bought this book in an Oxfam book shop in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

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