An Author: Khaled Hosseini

May 26, 2013

A short while ago I heard that Khaled Hosseini, the celebrated author of debut novel The Kite Runner, was to release a new book. Having had his second book on my shelf for a long while and on my list of 'to be read' for just as long, it was definitely a chance to get round to reading it- in preparation for his third book And The Mountains Echoed.

I find Khaled Hosseini's background very interesting in making his writing informed in a pretty unique way, so here is a little insight.

A little bit about the Author 

  • Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965.
  • Father: diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry. Mother: Farsi and History teacher at a high school in Kabul.
  • Through the Father's work with the Foreign Ministry, the family is relocated to Paris, (1976.)
  • Unable to return to their war-torn homeland, the Hosseinis moved to San Jose, California in 1980 having successfully been granted asylum. 
  • Khaled Hosseini earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1988 from Santa Clara University.
  • The following year he entered the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where he earned a medical degree in 1993.
  • In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel.
  • Named a Goodwill Envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2006. 
  • Establishes The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit organisation providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan

A lot of us have read The Kite Runner, but it also seems that a lot are yet to read it, (my survey being all the people that asked what I was reading, my answer being 'Khaled Hosseini's new book, you know the author of the Kite Runner' and their answer being 'oh I've always meant to read the Kite Runner.' Despite his second book being another bestseller it seems that fewer are aware of A Thousand Splendid Suns, perhaps it hasn't made it onto the school curriculum, yet. So, to those who have read neither, here is a little summary and a taster of what to expect in his latest release.

The Kite Runner

This poignant story discusses themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and the pursuit of redemption. Amir born into wealth, Hassan born into poverty, as a Hazara and servant to Amir's father, make an unlikely friendship -one that is incredibly touching and seemingly unimpeachable. 
The story's backdrop, Afghanistan over a turbulent thirty year period, closely follows the closing years of the monarchy and the first years of the short-lived republic. The impact of the war pervades the entire story and the lives of the characters.
Having made two selfish, juvenile, in truth simply unexplainable and unjustifiable decisions, Amir loses contact with his best friend and sees him leave the home. As the Communist regime takes over, Amir moves, with his father, to U.S. After a period that sees Amir find a wife, he finally returns to Taliban-occupied Afghanistan, on receiving a letter from his father's ex-employee. Long-overdue, he searches for redemption, but will it be too late?
A truly heartbreaking novel evocatively expressing the strength of friendship and love.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Similarly, A Thousand Splendid Suns spans thirty years of Afghan history. The volatile events in Kabul are no less dramatic in being recycled, for the characters aren't safely exiled, but rather live through all the devastation. The novel explores shame, friendship, domestic violence, unforeseen love, and the infinite bond with one's homeland.
It tells the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, 'brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate.' In the terror and violence surrounding their mutual home and inextricably entwined with it, the love that these women develop knows no limits. In a shocking, heroic, yet morally questionable turn of events, Mariam is compelled to save her friend and family.
Mariam's journey from self-sacrifice to self-knowledge means that despite her fate, despite her harrowing story, she will remain in the hearts of her loved ones, in those of a following generation, and in the hearts of anyone who reads her story.
The story is haunting and terrifying, but equally Hosseini instills in us a faith in humanity that had seemed far from achievable given the betrayal, selfishness, violence, and misogyny throughout. Ultimately, the strength of love permeates, overwhelms and overcomes all obstacles in its way.

The wonderful aspect of these novels, amidst the compelling characters and their poignant relationships of love and loyalty, is the context of Afghanistan. You can't help but learn about the history of the country from a unique and empathy-inducing perspective. Hosseini has the skill of producing suspense throughout, absorbing you in the story, yet always reserving that ability to shock. Both novels are satisfyingly tied up with redemptive or retributive endings. Despite the plethora of families, periods of time, and relationships that for much of the novel remain loose and potentially disparate, Hosseini reveals his unifying meaning in a carefully constructed ending.

Check out my following post for a review of Hosseini's newest novel And The Mountains Echoed.

Biographical info sourced from
Image sources: 1 Credit: Elena Seibert, 2, 3

A girly weekend: Whitby. Part 3

May 21, 2013

On the last day of our lovely weekend break we resolved to head to Whitby, our main motivation? The renowned Fish & Chips at The Magpie Cafe.

We got up, got ready, grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed on our way to Whitby. It was a bit of a drizzly typical english weather type day, but that didn't stop us having the usual fun. When we got there we were already hungry so there was no distraction on the walk that led us straight to lunch.

After a short queue we sat down and ordered. I hadn't expected such a range of seafood dishes; we were lucky to have already chosen what we were going to have, else we could have been there all day deciding between all the fresh fish dishes.

After a very filling lunch we decided to explore the area a little, and chose to make our way to Whitby Abbey, (Dracula's castle.) Waddling up the hill, we did a little window shopping on the way. Some of us couldn't resist the charm of the old sweet shops, despite still being pretty full. Although after the seemingly endless 199 steps up to the Abbey I'm sure we deserved them. Having recovered from the strenuous exercise we turned around to what was a pretty impressive view.

We wandered around a little and, failing to find an entrance, decided that the only way to see the Abbey in its entirety was by climbing this wall.

Hannah made an attempt, that reduced us all to fits of laughter. Regretfully she didn't quite make it. I did, and I was able to see the gothic splendour of the Abbey, but I have no proof of that since I was far too absorbed by Hannah's performance to take a photo. 

We were all in that happy smiley place again after Hannah's little debacle. 

After a somewhat unsuccessful but enjoyable trip to the Abbey, it was time to head back to Robin Hood's Bay. The only problem is that what goes up, must come down. Yep, those stairs again.
Hannah, high on life, skipped down.

The rest of us opted for a more conventional descent.

199 stairs later we hopped into a taxi and returned to our fisherman's cottage for the last cup of tea. We packed up our things, bundled them into the car, and headed back to York.

The weekend was finished off perfectly with the road trip back home and Hannah's eclectic playlist: from Edith Piaf to Frank Sinatra.
We couldn't resist stopping off and gazing at the outstretch of moors. (unfortunately the photos aren't great since it was getting dark.)

And that was the end to an incredible weekend with the girls. It just goes to show that you don't need to go anywhere exotic to have such an unadulterated amazing time. All the elements necessary are right here on our doorstep: friends, the outdoors, delicious food, and tea- lots and lots of tea.
I'm already hoping that we can go on another trip soon based on the success of this one!

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the weekend.

A girly weekend break: 21st Birthday. Part 2

May 18, 2013

Saturday morning began in the very best way possible; Hannah and I were woken up by the sun pouring itself in such abundance into our attic room. 
The rays lightly warmed my skin and I rose beaming. Seemingly I had been promised that a very good day was ahead of us.

The only way to follow such a wake up call was with a relaxed breakfast enjoyed with the lovely girls and incessant chatter.

We spent a long time talking over refill after refill of cups of tea and, decadently, accompanied by fresh fruit of figs and grapes. I was beginning to think I could get quite used to this!

We finally prised ourselves away from the breakfast table, which I could have contentedly sat at all day, and headed out to the beach. Our plan was to follow a fairly long walk with the hope of catching sight of some seals. After trying to figure out the tide times so as to avoid getting marooned, we made our way to the beach. I took all the necessary provisions, (my backpack was full of the necessities which I hadn't disclosed to the others- I obviously questioned our ability to read tide times and feared for our survival), but they weren't needed. It's safe to say we did not get very far. Dressed in an alternative way to the other walkers who donned walking boots, anoraks, and hats, we pottered down in less than appropriate apparel. That being said, we had a wonderful time running around like excitable children. There's something about the sea air that induces the most contagious and persistent smiles.

A certain one of us just couldn't help having a little dip in the sea; the rest of us looked on not quite believing the insistence that the water was 'actually quite warm'.

Having spent a long while running around, chatting, and laughing, we returned to the village.

As English literature students, the second hand book shop, nestled in amongst the cobbled streets, was too tempting to resist. We had a good peruse and having overwhelmed the tiny bookshop, it was time for birthday cake and a cup of tea!

We enjoyed the tea and cake whilst watching Bridget Jones- I'm not sure it gets much better than that: friends, cake, tea, and some very tolerable eye candy entertainment.

We giggled away, anticipated all of the best lines, and made our preferences known regarding Colin Firth or Hugh Grant.
We finished off an incredible day with a pub meal with yet more fish. We then returned to the cottage for snuggling on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

...Part 3 to follow...
See Part 1 here

A girly weekend break: Robin Hood's Bay. Part 1

May 17, 2013

Monday marked my wonderful friend Hannah's 21st Birthday.

The preceding weekend we were all treated to a lovely mini break. We packed up our possessions and crammed them into Hannah's car, we then folded ourselves into the now, slightly cosy, passenger seats. After a worthy road trip towards the North Yorkshire coast, with the breathtaking moors along the way, we found ourselves in Robin Hood's Bay.

We were all very excited and hastily made our way down the steep hill into the bay. We looked pretty ridiculous with our excess of luggage as we descended upon the quaint and picturesque seaside village.

Inevitably, having walked the length of the village, we found ourselves lost. 
When there's only one street, this is quite an impressive feat, it's possible that we provided just a little amusement to the locals. 

Having eventually found our way to the cottage, we all got settled in and enjoyed a well needed cup of tea whilst already feeling enamoured with the small amount of Robin Hood's Bay that we had wandered through.
After a busy day for some of the girls who had been in lectures that morning, and for Hannah who had driven us all, we headed out for a well deserved dinner.
We couldn't quite have anticipated the wonderful food that greeted us; there was a myriad of the freshest seafood dishes all of which caused a certain amount of food envy and absolutely satiated us all. (If you ever visit, you absolutely must eat at The Smugglers)
A couple of glasses of wine later- mussels, crab, prawns and salmon consumed- it was time to potter through the cobbled streets back to our idyllic fisherman's cottage.

Next, after rapidly appropriating our pyjamas, we enjoyed a glass of champagne. We toasted the weekend and Hannah's birthday before retreating to the sitting room.

This called for the card game, 'Blitz', followed by a round or two of Charades. Our competitive sides came out which soon precipitated a tired house of girls. It was time for bed in eager anticipation of the following day- when we managed to prise ourselves off the sofa that is.

... Day 2 to follow ...

Spring time Risotto: Lemon, Asparagus, and mint

May 10, 2013

Has anyone looked at the forecast for this weekend? No, let me suggest that you don't. It's safe to say this risotto dish is perfect for the Spring we are having; it's warm, filling, and comforting - as is essential in this cold weather- but simultaneously fresh and makes use of this season's vegetables.

 (Makes 2 portions)

A knob of butter
Olive oil
A garlic clove
150g Arborio rice
Dash of white wine (optional)
700ml Vegetable stock
Half a bunch of asparagus cut into thirds
Several sprigs of mint
The juice from half a lemon
Parmesan or vegetarian equivalent 


1. Add the butter, oil and garlic to the pan. Fry for several minutes making sure to keep stirring so that it doesn’t catch.

2. Pour in the rice. Once it has been coated in the butter and stirred for a few minutes it should be looking translucent. Splash in the wine.

3. Next, add a ladle full of the stock. Repeat once the rice has soaked up the liquid and keep stirring regularly.

4. Continue this step cooking at a medium heat so that the rice ends up neither too al dente nor mushy. Steam the asparagus and use this opportunity to season your risotto.

5. Once you have used up the stock, or you’re happy with the consistency of the risotto, add the asparagus to the rice.

6. Mix in the lemon juice, and Italian hard cheese. Fold in the mint leaves. Stir, and serve up.

If you're someone that needs meat then salmon or parma ham would compliment this dish wonderfully.

This is best enjoyed with a glass of white wine and, if you're lucky enough that the sun has stretched his generosity towards you slightly further, al fresco.