And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleed Hosseni is his third novel, and actually differs quite a bit stylistically to Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Rather than following one or two people, as the other novels did, Mountains followed lots of different people, either part of the main family, or who interact with them in some way. The plot is scattered across chapters that are split across time and geographical space and it’s a bit more of a puzzle.
Abdullah and Pari are siblings, and there is nothing Abdullah loves more than Pari. When their father takes Pari to Kabul in search of work, Abudullah tags along, only to realise that Pari won’t be making the trip back with them. Abdullah spends the rest of his life wondering what happened to Pari, while Pari spends hers wondering if she is adopted. The other stories in the novel are those who have interacted with the family – there is Nabi, the chauffer of the family that adopt Pari, the greek surgeon who takes over the house after Nabi and finds Pari again, the two boys down the road who return fully grown to reclaim their family home. It’s a tale woven from tales, tales of people and how their lives interconnect, and how love find a way of making its way back.
I was a little sidelined by the disparity in this book at first. There are an awful lot of characters that seem to have little to no bearing on the lives of Abdullah and Pari, who are the characters mentioned in the blurb and therefore assumed to be of some importance. It’s almost like a collection of short stories that happen to be distinctly linked to these siblings in some way or another. There are a lot of names, and some of them are only named for a chapter, but become passing thoughts in others. It can get a bit confusing. It’s hard to say “I liked this character” because of this. In fact, all of the characters were incredibly flawed, incredibly human so I think Hosseni needs kudos for his excellent way of writing real, believable people.
As usual for Hosseni, excellently written, but I will admit to being a little disappointed, the emotional whallop was more of a nudge than a punch and the disparity of the narrative made it a little more difficult to work things out than in previous books. I ended up taking a break about halfway through the book (would not advise, it’s even harder to gather threads when the story is not fresh in your mind) and reading something else while I was finishing my dissertation off because it required a lot of concentration.
So I think my summary of this is that it was an excellently written book, but I couldn’t concentrate enough for the multiple time/space jumps which are so stylistically different from his other works. I also couldn’t help comparing Mountains to Splendid Suns which is never a good start. So, good book, but not my personal favourite and I probably wouldn’t pick it up to re-read if I am perfectly honest.