Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

This is actually the third time I started to "read" A Thousand Splendid Suns. You'll note the quotes surrounding the word read because I actually listened to the audiobook, and this was the third time I started it. I first got the CD's to listen to on a lengthy car trip where I was the only driver, but never got past the very beginning. At a later date, I transferred the CD's onto my ipod, thinking I would listen, and again started and didn't get too far. What led me to this final attempt (and I did listen to the entire story this time) was my need for some change in my exercise or motivation to do so. I decided to try listening to a book rather than music while I ran on my elliptical trainer, and surprisingly, this worked! What was happening is that my playlists were all so familiar that I began counting minutes on the elliptical.... with the book, each day something new was happening and that kept me interested in something other than the clock, even though I did not find this a particularly good book, it was plenty to serve its purpose for me.

Now I will get down to the business at hand, the review. I think it's only fair for me to rate this in two parts: audio and story. I'll begin with the audio because I believe that may have had a major impact on what I heard of the story. I did not like the narrator at all. Although she had a nice speaking voice, she talked/read SLOW!!!! It drove me crazy at first, but I decided I'd accept that because, as I said, it was keeping me going on the workout. I have learned that many audiobooks offer a read speed option, which this book did not, but would be of benefit. In addition to her slow speech, she had an annoying tendency to read with an accent only those words or phrases in the story that were native, kind of like Giada de Laurentiis does in her cooking show whenever she says Ricotta (ree COOO tah) but speaks normal English the rest of the time. This bothers me.

As for the story, the author does a good job of depicting life for women in a Muslim society and provides an elementary history of Afghanistan from the mid 1960's through the early 2000's. Overall this is well done, but some of the allusions rubbed me the wrong way, and here I should say that this may be a result of the narrator's tone and I may not have had the same reaction if I were reading it myself, it's hard to say.
I liked the women in the book and liked hearing of their hardships and efforts to overcome, but the second problem I had with the book is that it went too long! The story should have ended right after the final ordeal with Miriam (not a spoiler), which would have meant at least 2-3 hours less listening time and the rest of the story would have gone without saying. The author/editor needs to remember that wrapping everything up into a tidy package isn't always beneficial and often detrimental.

Although it's too late for me to read this story anew, hundreds who did actually read it (as opposed to listening) gave it 4 1/2 star reviews, so if you are inclined, I might say try the print.

No matter though, for now I am looking for another audiobook and my heart thanks me :)

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