Sometimes it’s a nice refresher to just stop reading what I usually read (for example; sci fi, fantasy, YA, historicals…) and just go for something different to broaden my horizons. The Swallows of Kabul is one such book. Totally not the sort of thing I read, but the information on the jacket flap caught my interest and I decided to give it a try. This is the first time I’ve actually read something that took place in the Middle East. (I think I’ve just about nearly travelled around the world in books!)
The Swallows of Kabul is the story of two couples. One couple features Mohsen and his wife Zunaira. The other couple are Atiq and his wife Musarrat. They are two couples living in Taliban run Afghanistan. Atiq has things somewhat easier for him. He’s a jailer and is (somewhat) a Taliban supporter. Musarrat is sick and dying in her home, whereas Zunaira feels locked and trapped in hers. These four will have their lives and fates intertwine by the sole action of the public execution of a prostitute.
This book did start off a little slow for me. I was patient with it though. It’s not supposed to be something that’s action packed and fast paced. It was slow, but the writing style is lyrical and poetic. The author really brings in the feeling of emptiness and despair of Kabul during this time period. I think the writing is extremely well done, it describes Kabul and its’ people and you can feel what they feel. You can picture the hot climate and the dry desert almost accurately. This book is basically written for the reader to feel the emotions of the main characters but also to experience how it is to live there during that time.
The characters are all right. It’s Atiq that really develops throughout this book. I liked Musarrat the most. She had this inner strength within her despite her health deteriorating and I admired her devotion and loyalty especially towards the end. I also pitied her the most as she had tried so hard to love Atiq and understand him. When she finally does though, it just seems too late. Which reinforces the feelings of sadness and despair which seems to be the main theme in this book.
Aside from the slow pace which sort of put me off, I couldn’t help but continue reading. I wanted to know what happened to these four people. My heart went out to them because of what they had to live through and the eventual outcomes of their lives towards the end of the book. Don’t expect any happy moments in this book (I can only think of one, and it didn’t end so nicely). You find yourself immersed in this story because of the way it’s beautifully written, and the emotions it can trigger while you’re reading it.
Overall, although it’s a short book, it might feel as if you’ve been drained of all emotion. Don’t let that put you off of this book. It’s written with a wonderful lyrical and poetical skill and with great detail to emotion and description that you’ll feel as if you’re actually there with the characters and going through their personal tragedies.
I give it a 9 out of 10.