Abdullah and Pari are close, very close; Pari idolises her older brother and there is nothing he wouldn’t do to keep he safe. But at the age of three Pari is sold to a glamorous young woman who couldn’t have children in Kabul. Without any form of goodbyes Abdullah never forgets his younger sister, but she has forgotten all about her previous life.
Khaled Hosseini sets out to explore the different ways in which families nurture; he begins this novel with a fable about a mythical creature known as the div who comes to the village and takes young children to his fort in the mountains. One day a farmer was so heartbroken of the loss of a child that he climbs the mountain to kill the div. After a brief battle with the creature the div shows him the most beautiful place the farmers ever seen and the children all happy. The div tells the farmer that he has come to test him and he has to choose what is best for his child.
I might lose some fans but I have to say it; people talk about Khaled Hosseini’s literary genius, with so much hype surrounding And the Mountains Echoed but I don’t see it. I will admit that I have not read The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns so I’m only judging his literary merits by this alone and I might be wrong. Here is my thoughts based on only this book; he is a great storyteller but he is no writer of literary fiction, in fact I think he still has some work to do, before I would consider him a good writer and I don’t think I would even class this as literary fiction.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading this novel but I was expecting literary fiction and I was disappointed I didn’t get it. I was also reading the most wonderful novel at the same time, which actually covers similar themes and plot points. So I continually compared this novel with the other and when you are facing off against A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, it really had no hope in winning. The story was nice and I found myself racing though the book but all the time I wanted to go back to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.
Well well go and play till the light fades away And then go home to bed The little ones leaped and shouted and laugh’d And all the hills ecchoed.
The title of the book comes from a William Blake poem called Nurse’s Song (I have no idea why Blake spells echoed with a double c but if you have any insights on that I would love to know) which feels fitting to the book. I think of Abdullah as the nurse who wants to protect but Pari is off having a good time (a far better life) and I’m not good at interpreting poetry but I think that’s where the analogy ends. There is the moral and ethical dilemma here about Pari, is she better off with the rich family or with her brother and family struggling.
As far as I can see this was a great story and I would read Khaled Hosseini again; I am curious to compare this to his other two books. I just think this is just great storytelling with a moral but there is nothing to make this stand out and think this is literature. In fact none of the characters or plot was so memorable, so when it came to talking about this book in book club I struggled to remember the plot and characters and I only finished it the day before.
At times I felt this book was a little staged and forced and I finished the book not learning anything about Afghanistan and the life of the people living there, so I felt disappointed. I know of offended people on the Khaled Hosseini bandwagon but sadly I just didn’t get into it. I liked the book but there is no lasting impression left on me and since I was reading a book that will easily be in my top five books of 2013 at the same time, I think that really gave me a negative opinion towards And the Mountains Echoed. This is the type of book you take to the beach or on holidays for a mindless but enjoyable story, there is nothing really else there.