- The novel opens with the sentence ‘Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.’ How important is that word in the novel? How does her illegitimacy shape Mariam’s life?
‘The next time Mariam signed her name to a document, twenty-seven years later, a mullah would be present.’ (page 49). Khaled Hosseini foreshadows events, both domestic and national, at many points throughout A Thousand Splendid Suns. What effect does this have?
- ‘But it was the women who drew Mariam’s eyes the most.’ (page 67) What is it that fascinates Mariam about the women of Kabul, and why does it capture her attention?
- How are women treated by the various regimes that take control of Afghanistan?
- How are the main female characters portrayed in the novel?
- To what extent do these portrayals differ from any preconceptions that you may have had about women in Afghanistan?
- Mariam protests at the idea of marrying Rasheed, begging her father not to force her. What kind of husband does he prove to be? How does she come to feel about him? How does their marriage change? Why do you think Rasheed behaves in the way that he does?
- ‘And in this fleeting, wordless exchange with Mariam, Laila knew that they were not enemies any longer.’ (page 224). How is the deep bond between Mariam and Laila forged? How does this bond sustain both of them?
- How does the observation of Islam in Kabul differ from Mariam’s hometown of Herat? What part does
religion play in her life? How important is it in the novel?
- ‘To me, it’s nonsense – and very dangerous nonsense at that – all this talk of I’m Tajik and you’re Pashtun and he’s Hazara and she’s Uzbek. We’re all Afghans and that’s all that should matter.’ (page 117) Laila’s father tells her. How important is this ethnic diversity both in the novel and in what happens to Afghanistan throughout the thirty years the book spans?
- What is the significance of the novel’s title? Why do you think Hosseini chose it?
- What did you think of the novel’s ending?
- How would you describe Hosseini’s writing style? Were there particular passages that impressed you and if so what were they and why?
- How are the West and the Soviet Union portrayed in the novel? What part do they play in Afghanistan’s troubles?
- Hosseini is an expatriate Afghan. To what extent do you think this has influenced the writing of A Thousand Splendid Suns, and his portrayal of Afghanistan?