Then I realised it was published in 2003, a few years after I thought I read it.
Then I realised that the subject matter was slightly different to what I remember i.e. nobody actually rides a kite and I don’t remember Afghanistan being the setting.
Then I realised that the book I’d read was The Kite Rider a 2001 novel by Geraldine McCaughrean.
Then I decided to correct my error and read The Kite RUNNER.
I think it’s probably safe to say that The Kite Runner is an entirely different book to the one I’d been thinking about. In the first book, a young Chinese boy sees his father die while riding a kite in order to test the omens for his ship’s voyage. Haoyou must then ride the winds himself in order to avenge his father’s death and prevent his mother’s remarriage. After he does so a new world of seeming fortune unveils itself and presents Haoyou with some difficult choices.
The second book also features a story wrapped around the importance of family and a young boy’s response to an evil act but in a very different way. The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, from his relatively peaceful childhood in Afghanistan, to a less peaceful adult life in America having fled Afghanistan after the Russian invasion in the 1980s. As a child Amir is witness to a horrifying event which changes his life forever. His response to this event is less than heroic, a fact that he struggles to live with and which haunts him for the rest of his life, a life he feels he is unworthy of living. When he is offered the chance to redeem himself and to make up for his past mistakes he finds that to do so he must go back to a much less stable Afghanistan (the Afghanistan of 2001) and face his demons.
The Kite Runner features some very heavy material (that I certainly wouldn’t have been reading as a 13-year-old) but it is a thrilling read. From the first page we know that there is something terrible in Amir’s past but it is only slowly that the story unfolds, the story of the event that haunts him and how he has wrestled with the memory over the following years. And Amir’s inward struggle is reflected in the story of the horrors which have ravaged Afghanistan over the same time period. The brutal event that destroy’s Amir’s childhood and innocence also marks the end of peace in his country and the beginning of war.
It seems wrong to say it of such a brutal book but I enjoyed reading The Kite Runner, I got swept up in Amir’s story and carried along by the easy flow of Hasseini’s writing. I equally appreciated the chance to learn some more about the history of Afghanistan, I had no idea of their involvement in the Soviet War and for how long the country has had to live with oppression and fear.
It’s not an easy read but it is definitely worth it, there’s intrigue and deception aplenty as well as an intimate portrait of a country I suspect few of us know much about.But Hosseini manages not to get too caught up in the history and politics, Afghanistan and it’s troubles merely serve as a background for what is ultimately a story of one boy’s search for a redemption he fears he will never find.