My father introduced me to Khaled Hosseini in 2015 by blasting the audio version of The Kite Runner in the car every morning for two weeks. You see, my father doesn’t actually read his books. Instead, he listens to them in his spare time – usually during his morning and afternoon commutes to work and before he goes to bed. During my first year of university, I traveled with him often since my school isn’t too far away from home and it’s on the same route he uses for work. So by the time I got to reading The Kite Runner for myself, I already knew how the book would end. I’m not too angry about this. Afterall, my father did introduce me to a new author and since then, I have read one of Hosseini’s books every year. This year is no exception.
And so, for my third/fourth book of the year, I am returning to the Middle East to complete Hosseini’s 3-novel set. I enjoyed both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in the past two years, so I was naturally excited start And the Mountains Echoed. While I was out stationery shopping last week, I spotted a paperback copy in one of our local bookstores. I was lucky. It was the last copy they had and I even got a discount on it because it was slightly damaged. I happily lugged the book home along with my other goodies, but when I started to read it, I found the book oddly challenging.
I have two theories on why this book is so difficult to read. The first is the quality of the paperback. The copy I have is a Large Print Press edition meant for people with eyes as bad as mine. The text size is okay, but the book has been printed on this shiny, semi-reflective paper. Staring at the pages long enough eventually makes the words kinda jump and squiggle for me and that slows my reading. I suppose this is why I’ve always been fond of off-white paper or sepia-toned paper when I’m reading. I even have my Kindle set with a sepia-toned background because it’s so much easier on my eyes. Perhaps my Kindle has spoiled me with its customization options. Perhaps my eyes are just oddly picky.
The second challenge is Hosseini’s new writing style. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are relatively straightforward narratives. On the other hand – and without getting into too much detail – Hosseini writes each chapter from a different character’s perspective in And the Mountains Echoed. In doing do, he reveals various secrets slowly and indirectly as the stories unfolds. I admire Hosseini for this this change in style and I do love it, but each chapter has a different grade of smoothness. While some are clear and a pleasure to read, others seem a bit jerky and awkward. Maybe this was his intention to shape each character’s perspective differently or maybe it’s just my eyes and that shiny white paper. I think I will finish the book on my kindle and see how the rest of the narrative flows.
Apart from these two minor setbacks, I am enjoying the story. I love that Hosseini is experimenting with his style while remaining loyal to his favourite themes. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the book and hopefully, by next week, I will be able to do a proper review about the book.
Until then, happy readings!