Lovely Mum almost never lets me down with her book purchases, but when I saw a Kirkus Reviews quote on the front of this book that said “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner,” I thought this book probably wasn’t going to be my dream read. The story revolves around a group of five very different women who come together in a Kabul coffee shop run by ex-pat Sunny.
There’s the beautiful pregnant widow Yazmina, who was left for dead by warlords her uncle was indebted to, and who now have their sights set on her younger sister in Nuristan. There’s English tough-on-the-outside, broken-on-the-inside journalist Isabel, wealthy middle-aged socialite Candace who has divorced her husband and come to Afghanistan to be with her younger lover, the mysterious Wakil. And finally there is Hajalan, my favourite, who has sixty-odd years of Afghan history in her memory. She wears her hair short under her headscarf and smokes when her rigid son Ahmet isn’t looking. She’s in love with Rashif the tailor, and has been since they were children, though they’ve both been married and widowed since.
Rashif writes Hajalan letters that she can’t read, and these poignant letters were my favourite part of the book. Their love story in general really moved me … the rest of the book, well, I can’t say it was rubbish. It just wasn’t the sort of book I like to read that much. It was a bit on the worthy side for chick-lit, and a bit on the light side for anything else.
It also had more proofreading errors than any book I’ve ever read in my life (I’m sorry! I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I’m an editor. We’re arseholes.) I found that especially puzzling because the copyright page said that it had been reprinted twenty times in 2013, so they had plenty of opportunities to sort this out. And they weren’t even little things. One of the main characters’ names is spelt wrong on the back for a start. I wasn’t going to get into this because it makes me sound insufferable but I had to go with it in the end because I guess I just am insufferable.
Anyway, this is a perfectly good read that just didn’t hit the spot for me but clearly did for tons of other people as it sounds like it sold bucketloads of copies. Kirkus Reviews hit the nail on the head when they said it was “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner,” so if that sounds like your cup of tea, don’t let me put you off it!