I am delighted to start our World Party Challenge with a trip to Afghanistan.
True, I have taken the easy option and decided to start with the very first country we have on our list at Packabook’s main site – but it is more than that.
When I think about the books that have truly moved me, there are two that immediately spring to mind – and both of those are set in Afghanistan.
My fascination with Afghanistan began, like many others, with Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. And the reason it hit me so hard was that in part of the book Hosseini described an Afghanistan I knew nothing about, that I had never seen on the news or in a movie. This was the Kabul of the 1970’s; a city with tree-lined streets, beautiful gardens and women wearing miniskirts. A city that was known as the Paris of Central Asia.
Why had I never known this? Because like so many others my view of Afghanistan was formed by what I saw on the evening news. If you had asked me to think of Afghanistan what would have come to mind was images of dusty roads, violence, poppy fields, Soviet tank graveyards and the heartbreaking television images of the magnificent Buddhas of Bamiyan being destroyed by the Taliban.
What I certainly didn’t have was an image of trees in Kabul as Hosseini described. And when I read his words it reminded me of just how much power novels like this have. I could have read a hundred history books on Afghanistan, but nothing would have had the same impact as realizing that once there were trees – and then they were gone. For me, it summed up so much of what has happened in that embattled country over the last 30 years.
By their nature epiphanies are pretty personal, but that was mine. And since then I have just wanted to know more about Afghanistan.
I devoured The Bookseller of Kabul, Swallows of Kabul and The Wasted Vigil – all of which are excellent books in their own right. And then Hosseini released his much-awaited second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns.
If I thought The Kite Runner had been powerful, then this was even more so. Because this was about women. And this time it truly hit home.
Hosseini managed to make me understand what it is like to not have any control over your own life, simply because you are a woman. And even now, there’s many a time when I am complaining about the train not turning up on time, or battling the London weather to get to work, that I catch myself whinging. And then I remember Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns and I count my blessings.
This is the power of the novels we read.
I was going so use this Afghanistan launch post to tell you about Born Under a Million Shadows, my book of choice for this challenge. But the post has gone on long enough so it can wait for another day.
For now, I encourage you to pull out anything you already have on your shelves set in Afghanistan, have a read and share it with us. If you are looking for inspiration head over to Books Set in Afghanistan and you will find plenty there.
Then in the comments please let us know what you are reading and/or give us a link to your own post or review.
Many of us have governments who are making decisions which impact Afghanistan. I suspect it is a good idea that we read as much as we can about this troubled country, because what we see on our television screens is just a tiny fraction of the many stories to be told.
And apart from that, these novels are damn fine reads. Choose one now, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts…
Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.