Fiction And the Mountains Echoed - Omnivore

Published on May 1st, 2013


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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Blurb: So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one…Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari – as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named – is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their heads touching, their limbs tangled. One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand.

Rachel Hore, The Independent

While one is aware of the troubles of subsequent eras acting out in the background, this is not a novel about Afghan politics and the author has elsewhere said that he resists the expectation that he should “carry a banner” or “be a voice” for his homeland. His interests this time are the human and the personal. 

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Paul Dunn, The Times

Hosseini is a master storyteller and his characters brim with life. Each story is intriguing in its own right but one question lingers over them all: will brother and sister be reunited? And, if so, will they know each other again or share the amnesiac fate of the peasant in the folk tale? Hosseini has a lot to live up to. This novel will not disappoint his many admirers.

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Luisa Metcalfe, The Daily Express

A hallmark of Hosseini’s novels is that a key rite of adulthood is being burdened with new and painful knowledge, whether it’s the truth about a much-loved parent or an overriding sense of guilt. And true to form emotional plot twists lurk in each story and each tale is linked by a defining love and sense of loss.

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Alexander Linklater, The Observer

Digressing across a web of family connections, he delays gratification without frustrating desire. He guides a multi-layered narrative tantalisingly away from the siblings’ denouement through characters you initially assume are merely foils, but who instead become gripping destinations in their own right.

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Philip Hensher, The Guardian

This is a shamelessly enjoyable book. Its ironies and tragic reversals will surely be made into a big movie, but actually it would make an irresistible musical – it is basically Blood Brothers with better food and clothes. Enjoyable as it is, though – and it’s definitely a step up from Dan Brown – it is restricted by the requirements of its genre, in particular the need for psychological situations to play out in simply satisfying or O Henry irony-of-fate ways. Any kind of complexity or irresolution is beyond it. 

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Helen Brown, The Daily Telegraph

Even if some characters have less emotional resonance than others, and the pace slouches in the centre, when the echoes of the original story return in the closing section Hosseini pulls off his usual – impressive – trick of breaking your heart and leaving you smiling.

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Kaite Welsh, Literary Review

“If at times the novel verges on the sentimental, it never quite descends into mawkishness and Hosseini is at his best when he explores the moral relativism of his characters. A doctor is spurred into humanitarian actions when he visits Afghanistan, but back in California this impulse fades as memories of travel tend to do.”

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James Walton, The Spectator

Sure enough, this is another thumping, family-based, Afghanistan-centred saga that features exile, regret and long-lost relatives across several decades. In fact, the biggest difference from Hosseini’s earlier books is simply that we get a lot more of all of them — to such an extent that at times it feels as if he has more narrative here than he knows what to do with.

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Suzy Hansen, The Financial Times

[The] girl was injured not by the Taliban, or any other of the warring parties, but in a family feud. That’s perfectly plausible but it seems to sum up Hosseini’s style: he always recuses himself from political pronouncements or, more importantly, from giving his characters a political point of view. Afghanistan, however, is a country which has been fought over and invaded many times over the centuries. Its people do not just feel passive acceptance of their fate. There is a lot of love in this novel but a noticeable absence of rage.

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