When an author writes a universally loved book like The Kite Runner, then anything else that follows is going to be a little disappointing. So Khaled Hosseini, the Afghan born American writer who became a literary sensation overnight with the release of The Kite Runner in 2003 has a tough act to follow even if it is his own act. The Kite Runner was followed by A Thousand Splendid Suns and I was disappointed with the latter. The Kite Runner has such a special place in my heart that I was already biased when I picked up Hosseini’s second book. And now with his latest book, And the Mountains Echoed, I feel the same way.
But even if it does not measure up to The Kite Runner, And the Mountains Echoed is written with the same sense of nostalgia with which Hosseini writes about his native land Afghanistan. He revisits the country that was an idyllic place in the early 1950s and disintegrated into a place of bloodshed and misery by the 1980s and 1990s and continues to be a troubled nation till today.
The story begins portraying the deep bond between a brother and sister who are separated when the girl is given away for adoption to a rich couple who live in the Afghan capital Kabul. It beings in the early 1950s and ends in 2010 by which time lives have changed dramatically, many of the main characters have lived and died and everyone’s life has got more complicated. There are families and extended families, there are secrets that get gradually unraveled as the pages turn but some secrets remain untold till the end.
The inspiration for the Book’s title is a poem by William Blake (1757–1827) called the Nurse’s Song. Here is the poem for those who would like to read it.
WHEN the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.
‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.’
‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’
‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d
And all the hills echoèd.