I just finished Khaled Hosseini’s latest ‘And the Mountains Echoed‘, another sprawling family saga with its base in the Afghanistan area. I found his first two books wonderful, even if they were a tad melancholic, but this one sputtered along and just didn’t have the energy of his previous work. There were moments of brilliance but periods of confusion as I would wonder ‘where is this going and what has it go to do with the original storyline?’
My critique would be that the novel suffered from having too many characters who were introduced obscurely. Hosseini will regularly change voice in his writing without letting on that he has done so. You find yourself 10 pages into a chapter wondering who is narrating this time and what connection it bears to the rest of the story. This happened regularly and at first it was a clever way of luring the reader in, but once the ‘cast’ grew it became confusing and difficult to remember who everyone was. You would read a chapter for 5 minutes and feel like you had been air dropped in the middle of a jungle and now needed to get your bearings if you were going to find a way out.
If I had to sum up the purpose of the story then it would be something to do with family… yeah… not that clear, but possibly how our roots and connections matter and need attention if we are to know who we are.
Hosseini is a very good writer and generally enjoyable to read, but this one felt like hard work at times as I laboured thru the various sub stories wondering where they were headed. Perhaps a second read may be more fruitful, but I’m not sure I feel sufficiently inspired to go there.
So – there you have it…