I looked forward so much to reading this book – “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” will always be in my top ten of all time, and I wondered how on earth Khaled Hosseini could follow them up. With something even better maybe? I have to say maybe not, but “And the Mountains Echoed” is a totally different book that I thoroughly enjoyed and it did not disappoint me in any way.
Almost a series of short stories, told through a number of key characters, this is a book of sweeping scale extending across a number of lives and across Afghanistan, the US, France and the Greek islands. It starts with the story of Abdullah and Pari, children born into poverty in rural Afghanistan, making the journey to a new life in Kabul, where the action which takes place shapes the rest of the novel. The characters involved in this first thread then take the narrative in a number of different directions. I loved the story of Nabi, the children’s step uncle) and his relationship with his reclusive employer, told through an extended letter, and the story of Nila, the employer’s wife, told largely through a magazine interview. The story of Idris, a neighbour’s son now living in America, who returns to Afghanistan and fails to act on his promises, was extremely touching. And the final chapter, returning to Abdullah and Pari in old age, is apt and exceptionally moving.
This is a very different book – challenging in its structure and fragmentation, yet also magnificently cohesive in the way it explores the many facets of human relationships. The characters all leap off the page, are written as beautifully as you would expect from such a talented author and story teller, and there is absolutely no wrenching as you flow effortlessly from one character and time to another.
This might not be a book everyone will love – particularly if expecting it to resemble the first two – but I found it mesmerising, compelling and heartbreaking.