Opening in Afghanistan in the mid-seventies, this novel tells the story of a young Afghani man's struggle to win his father's approval, against a background of his country's turbulent politics, where control passes through the hands of various kings into those of Russia, and finally into the hands of the religiously fanatical Taliban.
Yet to me the appeal of the story lies not the changes of government, nor in the depiction of a different, Islamic culture, but in the all too human story of the hero, Amir, as he is caught in his own personal turmoil. Love, fear and ambition war together, and the price of his success is betrayal and guilt. Were he to have acted out his life in any other time, place or culture, it would have made little difference. The happiness and pain of his life are personal, and the background of violent change from feudalism to communism to theocracy remains just that - a background.
This sets me to thinking - as a good novel should, - that we are all much the same. Skin colour can change, the language in which we express our belief in God, or the lack of it. Though these change, the essentials of our lives do not.
It seems to me that the real politics, the real struggle in life, is between two spirits. One is optimistic and cheerful, that recognises love and says to strive for a better world, and one is dark and full of fear, and says to lash out and hurt, and destroy the world in hatred and despair.
These two are universal, and greater than all differences in culture or religion, and this novel speaks to me because I find that these two spirits also live in me, and battle with each other.