Thoughts from the Coddiwomple bedside pedestal.
Some books just come your way at the right time, perhaps under the guise of coincidence (and if you’re me, you don’t believe anything is coincidental). This hand-me-down copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns was placed in my hands just as Afghanistan hit the headlines again. And for that timing, I am grateful.
The 2007 well-worn paperback book before me was slightly rolled in all four corners. It had begun splitting at these edges, revealing the grey cardboard upon which the faded yellow and orange cover with the lone female figure had been printed. Inside, the pages had turned a dusty mustard, punctuated with mottled, brown age spots. It had that musty air that books acquire from time spent nuzzled on wooden bookshelves, and it was clear that a war against fish moths had been waged at some stage. Telltale lines of previously dog-eared pages pointed to a history of multiple readers who had marked their spot before turning off their bedside light, more thankful than ever to be sleeping beneath a plush, toasty duvet. Their children just down the passage, tucked into bed early in preparation for school the next day. Fresh, young, malleable minds, ready and encouraged by their parents to learn. Down the passage, a fridge stocked with eggs, milk, and cheese for the morning, and a cupboard harbouring a selection of cereals for the fussy family members that may prefer Coco Pops or Oats for breakfast.
Yes, it was clear that this copy with which I’d been graced had its own stories to tell as well as this story to tell. Just like my book’s split edges and dog-eared pages, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a brutal, eye-opening account of a world dominated by spouse-inflicted split lips, cracked teeth, and prematurely lined, mottled and sallow complexions. It’s about inconceivable abuse and oppression. A world where little girls do not need to be in bed early – they don’t get to go to school, or to become nurses, teachers, or engineers. A dusty dwelling where food is about survival, not the preference of cereal over eggs. This moving, informative novel takes us on a visual and emotional journey centered around two Afghan women. It is a journey that will forever change how you see the next CNN headline, and how acutely you feel for the plight of Afghanistan.
The harsh, cold reality found heavy on the pages of this book is interspersed with warmth, with love, with lovers, with deep, enduring, selfless friendships. You will cry at the self-sacrifice, the innocence of youth cut short, the stolen moments of joy, the inconceivable loss, and the triumphs. This ink on paper has been artfully woven to dance off the pages and trouble your daily thoughts. You will weep for those that have nothing, and you will hold your blessings closer than ever before. You will be humbled. You will be informed. A Thousand Splendid Sun takes arms-length out of the equation. The continued struggle of Afghans will no longer be pictures on a television. Once you’ve read A Thousand Splendid Suns, the desperate, tired, haunted faces you see will be those of Mariam and Laila.
Khaled Hosseini is a true artist of the written word, and his book is painted to perfection. I am in awe.
Let’s just coddiwomple