The Kite Runner enjoyed enormous publicity thanks to its release at the very time that the eyes of the West were focused on Afghanistan. It offers an authentic personal perspective on Kabul before the Russian occupation, life as an exiled member of the Afghan community in the United States, and the social and physical damage wreaked on Afghanistan by the Taliban.   It is very much a book of its time.

But intriguing though the context is, the novel has other messages for us. The Kite Runner deals with universal issues: power and family relationships, ethnicity and class, jealousy and love, betrayal, guilt and redemption. On one level, Amir is an unattractive boy: cowardly, malicious and undeserving of the faithful love and loyalty he takes for granted in his lifelong friend and servant Hassan. On another, he is a motherless boy inadequately appreciated or supported by his larger-than-life father. To gain his father’s approval and love, he will do almost anything.  This, indeed, is the animus for his final betrayal of Hassan.

The book is interesting on a further level. Crimes committed by children do not fit well with our conception of the innocence of childhood. The killing of James Bulger and similar events threw this into relief and began to generate discussion and new writing that presented childhood in a rather more nuanced light. Films like Heavenly Creatures have shown that children are capable of murder. Books like In the Country of Men (Hisham Matar) and We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lionel Shriver) suggest that innocence and goodness cannot be taken for granted in children, and that this may not necessarily be the fault of parents or bad influences. They tell us that children, like adults, are complex creatures.

The Kite Runner is a highly readable novel and, like many of the best, contains enough intellectual meat to keep us thinking about the issues it raises.

 

The Observer : “Amir's story is simultaneously devastating and inspiring. His world is a patchwork of the beautiful and horrific, and the book a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled.”

New York Times : “In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence -- forces that continue to threaten them even today.”

Asian Review of Books : "The author is able to depict moral complexities without clunkiness, instead catching the breath, and heart, of the reader.”

Amazon : "A plot that is as suspenseful as it is taut with feeling"

The Daily Telegraph : "Told with simplicity and poise, it is a novel of great hidden intricacy and wisdom like a timeless Eastern tale"

San Francisco Chronicle : "An old-fashioned kind of novel that really sweeps you away"

Isabel Allende: "This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years"

The Times : "Hosseini's sparkling descriptions of people, places and emotions never dry up. Hosseini is a truly gifted teller of tales"

Literary Review : "Beautifully nuanced, and the moment of Amir's ultimate betrayal is genuinely shocking. It is a passionate story"