The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir and his friend Hassan growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970’s and the tragic consequences following a kite-fighting competition they part in. Although the Russian invasion forces Amir to leave Afghanistan to start a new life in the United States, the events of his childhood never really go away and years later, he returns to his home country following the rise of the Taliban in the hope of finding redemption.
The Kite Runner is an engaging tale of childhood betrayal and is an important and timely book given that many Westerners still have pre conceived ideas about what life has been like in Afghanistan in recent years. Yet the main themes of the story are still universal and the story is very much a personal one rather than being overtly political. Hosseini’s characters are mostly well observed with believable voices although I felt like I was manipulated into feeling more sympathetic towards Amir than he probably deserved in spite of the huge amount of guilt he carried around with him for years. Also, the character of Hassan was very idealised and Assef was a simplistic villain.
For the most part, The Kite Runner is movingly written story, but I felt that Hosseini went a bit overboard with the sentimentality and cliches in the all too convenient ending which spoiled the balance. Overall, I thought the first three quarters of the book were very compelling and well paced so I found the ending a bit disappointing.
I have heard that Hosseini’s second novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is better than The Kite Runner and I would be interested in reading that at some point in the future.