The experience The Kite Runner drags you through is intense, tearful and racking to such an extent that, occasionally, you might find yourself flinching at some of the naked ways in which Hosseini writes. In addition to its rawness, it is exciting and enjoyable through the way Hosseini connects the readers and the characters so firmly. Written in a journalistic, first person style, I felt closely bonded with the main character, Amir, yet some distance was preserved. This makes it perfect for describing and exploring the political environment of Afghanistan between 1975 and 2001 that The Kite Runner is set in, providing an intimate view for the reader.
My favourite thing about this book is the characters, and the way in which I found my perception of the characters shifting and evolving with the plot. In the beginning, as I watched Amir and Hassan’s (Amir’s manservant/ best friend) friendship, I found myself feeling frequently physically repulsed by Amir – a peculiar sensation due to the novel being in first person – meaning that I was also experiencing his guilt. This gives the novel a self-critical tone (not uncommon in Hosseini’s writing as I have discovered reading another one of his novels, And the Mountains Echoed). However, as Amir grows into a man, the reader feels more and more connected to him as his guilt haunts him and adds to the strong theme of redemption and self-forgiveness that resonates through the book. It is apparent that Hosseini uses this critical tone and his characters and their traits to portray messages and coax the reader into reflecting on their own faults – particularly when it comes to the material comforts of the Western world when Amir is faced with the dilemma of returning to the safety of his wife and home or going to Afghanistan to save a boy’s life.
Another character that is notably interesting for the reader to watch grow is Amir’s father, Baba. For a lot of the novel there is a deep admiration for Baba because the reader views him through Amir’s eyes and we hear the slightly hypnotic repetition of the description “great man”. Particularly from a young, modern perspective he is admirable because of his progressive attitude – considering the time and circumstance – in his political and religious stances and his approach to wealth and moral values. Despite this, our opinion of him fluctuates when it comes to his approach to his relationship with young Amir. We watch him reject and judge Amir harshly and see the detrimental impacts this has on Amir and his behaviour and the concept that pride is damaging seems key here. Towards the end, we learn of Baba’s lies which seems to reflect his hypocrisy in life. Although he was a good man who did a lot for the community (in terms of building orphanages etc.) he still lived in an enormous, beautiful house and he viewed his servant, Ali, as a dear friend, but he betrayed him; Ali also lived in a small shack in the garden. In this way, Baba seems to represent many powerful people in Afghan culture.
Overall, this novel is definitely one of my favourites. It is incredibly powerful and moving; the story flows beautifully and, most significantly, the experience feels profoundly real, as if you are right there with Amir about to vomit out of that van from motion sickness. Its educational quality sheds light on the situation in Afghanistan and, through the characters, Hosseini seems to scream for attention to be paid to the issue. It is a novel that spills with politics, gender equality, the indignity of aging, religion, romance and more; it is a story that I will not soon forget.
Words by India Woodward