Tuesday, August 6, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini (Audio)

I definitely have a certain level of expectation with this author.  I mean, who didn't love "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns"???  They were both a mixture of fascinating details about the Afghan culture, combined with heartbreak, unbreakable ties of family and friendship, and endings that packed such a punch, I almost felt manipulated.  Still, he has such a talent to give you all he's got and leave you wondering what hit you.  He is truly an amazing author.

His latest offering has gotten some incredible reviews on the blogs...the critics are a little more varied in their response.  I can understand why.  This book definitely shares similar traits with his first two books, but is also so much more ambitious in scope that I think maybe causes it to lose a little bit of that Hosseini visceral, concentrated impact.

Synopsis:  At the core of this story is young Abdullah and his little sister Pari, inseparable in a small town in Afghanistan in 1952.  Their mother died while giving birth to Pari, and their father has remarried and struggles to support the family.  A fateful series of events causes Pari to be separated from the rest of her family, and many lives are changed forever.

The novel is constructed as a series of connected short stories spanning generations and traveling across the globe, from Kabul to Paris to Greece to San Francisco.  In ever expanding circles, we slowly widen from Abdullah and Pari to their relatives, their descendants, friends, caretakers, and even a young boy who lives in the palace of a drug lord that resides where Abdullah and Pari used to live.  We hear heartbreaking and uplifting tales of loss, love, honor, sacrifice, and envy.  Of parents and children, and the bond between.  Of wars and survival and hope.

My thoughts:  In many ways, this is storytelling at its best.  Hosseini certainly has a way to draw out the most realistic characters...you would almost swear he must know these people.  They come alive on the page, all with different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs.  The threads that weave these folks together are also lovingly placed strategically to evoke maximum emotion and poignancy.

It may be to Hosseini's disadvantage, then, that in following up his last two novels, the denouement was much gentler than I expected.  The entire novel leads you right where you think it will, and it is precious, but feels muted.  Also, because he takes such a circuitous and non-linear route, it can seem entertaining yet wandering.

All that said, the writing is gorgeous, and is a fabulous work of literature.

A few words about the audio production:  The author starts the narration with a brief fairytale-like story told by Abdullah and Pari's father to his children, while en route to the fateful trip to Kabul.  It is a prophetic tale that gives one goosebumps, and the author has a wonderful voice for that delivery.

The rest of the audio's narration is shared between David Negahban for the male voices, and Shohreh Aghdashloo for the female voices.  Both have very strong accents, which made it feel authentic but sometimes hard to understand.  I had a particularly difficult time with names, which made each new story somewhat of a guessing game on whose story it was.  Also the female narrator sounded like she smoked 5 packs of cigarettes a day (very deep and raspy) which bothered me a little, especially with the younger characters.

Listening length:  14 hours and 1 minute (416 pages)

4 out of 5 stars  
      


13 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oh I can't wait to listen to this. I will probably do it after my current tape, which is nonfiction, as most of them are that I listen to. I'm afraid to listen to fiction on tape, but I got this one so I'll see if I feel the same!

JoAnn said...

Great review, Sandy. I totally agree with you on the audio - the author's narration at the beginning actually did give me goosebumps! The rest of it went downhill for me. With little listening time and difficult accents, I switched to print.

bermudaonion said...

This was my first experience with Hosseini but has made me want to read more of his work. It sounds like I'm in for a real treat with his other two books.

Jackie Bailey said...

I'm half way through this book and am thinking about abandoning it. I loved his first two, but the plot is meandering and I don't really care what happens next. The fact you aren't raving about the amazing ending is making me think I should just give up. Two outstanding books is more than enough for one author. My expectations were too high for this one. :-(

Ti said...

There must be something wrong with me because I just cannot get into his books.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I have this one on hold at the library. His books are so intense I wanted to hear other people's thoughts about this one before I dove in. Sounds like it's definitely worth reading!

Anita said...

I started the audio and I'm not loving it after the tale has been told. I loved his first two books in audio so that's too bad. Not giving up yet.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I picked this one for September book club!! So I'll be reading it soon too. I'm nervous because I loved his first two, so this one might be a bit of a let-down, but an OK book from him is probably better than most great books from other authors, so I'm still very hopeful!

Literary Feline said...

I am looking forward to reading this one very much (and A Thousand Splendid Suns). I am glad you liked it, Sandy!

Tasha Brandstatter said...

I do love good storytelling. But I think I'll probably try one of his previous novels before this one.

Darlene said...

I'm glad to see you enjoyed this audio. I started listening to it a while ago and couldn't get it into it. I'm going to give it another go again soon because I really do enjoy his writing.

Julie P. said...

I was curious about the audio. This book was gorgeous and I adored it. I loved how everything came full circle. I think he just keeps getting better and better as an author.

Iliana said...

Believe it or not I actually didn't know much about this story - I've tried to stay away from reviews because there is so much hype with his novels that I tend not to want to read them. Sad, I know. I did enjoy the Kite Runner a lot... I'm glad to hear that you really liked this one.