Khaled Hosseini is probably better known for his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, but that is hardly a suggestion that his debut from 2003 should be overlooked. He is perhaps not the most likely of novelists; being as he is a Californian MD. Therefore, you could expect a non-committal novel, quickly brushed out as a hobby before he is paged back to the hospital. But this is certainly not the case. Perhaps Hosseini is not the most committed novelist, but this is not at all reflected in his careful and attentive style.
His style is akin to Booker of Bookers, Salman Rushdie, perhaps due to the post-colonial subject matter, but particularly the self-deprecation of his protagonist, Amir. Both novels reminisce of a ‘time before’ and coincidentally both start prior to a major political upheaval. Rushdie opts for Indian independence, Hossieni for the military coup which ended Afghanistan’s monarchy. Both are therefore entwined in political instability, leading to, as well as all else a well thought out lesson foreign political history.
Hosseini’s painfully realistic plot follows twenty-six years of his protagonist’s life from a twelve year old kite fighter living in a well off end of Kabul with his gruff but likable father ‘Baba’ and two Hazara servants, Ali and his son, Hassan; and ends with a very different Amir: a professional novelist and insomniac living in California with his wife. It feels throughout the novel that Hosseini sees a lot of himself in Amir. Their lives follow a remarkably similar geographical journey and this very much lends itself to a thoroughly believable character. For the most part, I wanted to punch Amir, but then immediately apologise and fetch him an ice pack. The book takes these turns constantly. It makes you hate Amir almost as much as he hates himself, which pulls you onto his side so much that you genuinely feel panic during the latter half of the book where Amir’s past seems to be falling apart around him. Apart from Amir, Hassan is certainly one of the most interesting characters in the novel, and is of course, the title character. For me the tragedy of his life is far worse for the protagonist than it is for him, an interesting development, particularly seeing as Hassan spends the majority of the narrative across the other side of the globe from Amir.
Hosseini is a master of emotion and a master of political narrative, and as neither of these aspects feel in any way forced. The novel brings with it a harrowing quality. He tackles exceedingly controversial pieces, all with the intention of giving Amir the hatred he craves throughout the novel.
The Kite Runner is one of the most moving and honest tales I have read; a true piece of literary genius. Will it move you to tears? Certainly. Will it create a sense of pain at the realism in the writing? Definitely. Would I recommend it to you? Yes, a thousand times over.