Book Review: The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra

Set in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban, this extraordinary novel takes readers into the lives of two couples: Mohsen, who comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban has destroyed; Zunaira, his wife, exceedingly beautiful, who was once a brilliant teacher and is now no longer allowed to leave her home without an escort or cov… more »ering her face. Intersecting their world is Atiq, a prison keeper, a man who has sincerely adopted the Taliban ideology and struggles to keep his faith, and his wife, Musarrat, who once rescued Atiq and is now dying of sickness and despair. Desperate, exhausted Mohsen wanders through Kabul when he is surrounded by a crowd about to stone an adulterous woman. Numbed by the hysterical atmosphere and drawn into their rage, he too throws stones at the face of the condemned woman buried up to her waist. With this gesture the lives of all four protagonists move toward their destinies. The Swallows of Kabul is a dazzling novel written with compassion and exquisite detail by one of the most lucid writers about the mentality of Islamic fundamentalists and the complexities of the Muslim world. Yasmina Khadra brings readers into the hot, dusty streets of Kabul and offers them an unflinching but compassionate insight into a society that violence and hypocrisy have brought to the edge of despair

The description of this book says it has compassion in it. I myself find little compassion, and in all honesty the end of the book angered me. Deeply angered me. That said the book does offer a deep look into the life of Islam as it stands in Kabul under Taliban rule. The differences in opinions on what is right and wrong, and the inability to do anything about it unless you’re with those who are in power. Afghanistan is not a place that is safe for anyone, and in this book it covers that. Kabul used to be an enlightened jewel that has been turned into little more than a blood stained ghost town ruble. By war, and by its own people. If you want a look into the mind of those in the ghost town give this book a read, it is well written. That said it is not for the faint of heart.

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