Tuesday 8 January 2008

The Kite Runner - and a pondering...

I read The Kite Runner for Book Group last week, and after a few people raved about it, I was expecting something brilliant. Well, I quite liked it - there we go, nothing if not effusive! The first 100 pages or so were great - a very vivid and complex portrait of an unequal fraternal relationship. Fascinating glimpse at issues of servitude, power, jealousy, love and a very believable pair of main characters. For those not in the know, Hassan is the son of Amir's father's Hazara servant - so the boys are the same age, and very close, but in very different circumstances. Perhaps their relationship is best shown in the sport which gives the novel its title - Amir flies his kite in an important local competition; Hassan is one of those who run after the cut-down kites, to keep as prizes. Hassan runs after them in order that he can give the kite to Amir - and his loyalty is such that he will endure much rather than relinquish the kite.

There is an event about 100 pages in which changes the lives of the central characters, the natu
re of the relationship, and the rest of the novel. To be fair to Khaled Hosseini (the author) the event doesn't feel signposted in any way. I'm always annoyed by pages which scream "Look! Most Important Event Happening Here! Get Ready For Everything To Change!" But after it happens, the main force of the novel is lost. I waded through the remaining 200 or so pages with some interest, but The Kite Runner had rather, ahem, run out of steam.

And it got me thinking. Much of the reason I didn't enjoy the second half of the book, aside from its having lost momentum, was the violence and gore it involved. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a slasher-horror or anything, it was just rather too much for a reader with as squeamish an imagination as mine. I think that political situations are best told through character, rather than graphic description. It's easy to write something fairly disgusting (it's farcically easy to write something which will make m
e feel ill) but difficult to write in such a way as creates true empathy.

So what was my pondering - it was about novels being challenging. Challenging mindsets and emotions rather than using long words, of course. I've always just assumed that they should (sometimes) be challenging - and in some areas I still do. I love it when novels change the way I think, especially the way I think about people, but I will no longer feel guilty for squeamishness. I always thought the fault was with me, being put off by novels too 'challenging', whilst now I think they're just difficult to read without feeling ill.

Hmm. I'm still not entirely sure, though.


  1. Oh, this was one of my 3 for 2 which I BOUGHT in early JANUARY. So I'll probably get to it in about 25 train journeys' time.

    Now I'm no expert, but I think all the best ones are in some way challenging (or thought-provoking), unless they're just humourous - or better yet, both. Otherwise you would just be reading as a Neighbours subsitute, and since we have Neighbours in this day and age I'd rather not bother with books like that. Though if I read at the speed you do, perhaps I would. How coherent. x

  2. I loved this book, but I see your point. BTW my book had a much different cover. I don't care for the one shown here. Is it the UK version of Kite Runner? I think I dislike it because I know what the little guy is seeing..

  3. I loved the story ... but I found the writing clumpy at times. And I too am not good at gore. But I read on, I think, because I felt I shouldn't ignore Afghanistan and her troubles. And I was, in the end, moved.

    The film had exactly the same effect ... perhaps Hosseini overdid the gore because it was his first novel? I'm looking forward to A Thousand Splendid Suns.

  4. Oh yes, I occasionally have to skip entire chunks of books because I'm "squeamish" as you so aptly put it. And then I feel wary as the book continues, wondering what other nastiness might be lurking down the road.

    I read The Kite Runner some time ago, and remember having the same experience.

    Enjoyed your review - off to check out some more!

    And thank you for visiting Bookstack :)

  5. I too found the book to be disturbing in places, but I did love it. It was hard to read such graphic passages, but I couldn't stop myself. In that regard, it is like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold -- a great book with some disturbing scenes.

  6. i liked this book very much and thought that the writing and plot were very intersting.

    and friend and i were talking the other day and he said he thought males would really connect with the story more than females. not that females won't enjoy it, but the people who love it will more likely be males.

    i have not yet read it, but i heard the opposite may be true for abdalla's 2nd novel A Thousand Splendid Suns.

  7. Clearly I am in the minority but I just couldn't get into The Kite Runner. Two reasons. I found I wasn't the slightest bit interested or inspired by the relationship between the two young boys - servant and master - that you know will come to grief, and the emerging pomposity of the narrator. Secondly, and something I can't really put my finger on, was that the prose had the feel of the narrator (Afghani) speaking in broken English. I felt very defeatest as I'm an avid, wide ranging reader. I've enjoyed the works of Orhan Pamuk and Haruki Murakami in the past, who write with the same challenge. I had to dump it after fifty pages.


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