Review on ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini

If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I love Hosseini’s work. I discovered this book after reading ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. I virtually read it straight after reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and although it’s another heartbreaking and well-written text I was left somewhat disappointed. I’m not sure if this was because I’d really enjoyed the previous book or because there was less “action” in this text than the other two. However, it was still an insightful text and I did enjoy reading it!

Whereas the other two books explored male and female journeys within Afghanistan, this text explored the points of view of characters from a variety of backgrounds. The text began with a framing story of a brother and sister, which the book reverted back to throughout and ended with. Although other life stories were also explored throughout the text, they all linked in some way to the overarching story that Hosseini introduced at the beginning.

By using characters from different backgrounds and exploring how the lives of Afghanistan people vary wildly, Hosseini was again able to explore the country’s rich history. The far reaching impact of the events that have/are occurring within Afghanistan have rippled across different nations, affecting numerous people in different ways. This is explored in great detail throughout, such as through the use of characters from countries such as Greece and Germany, showing how these characters have been able to entwine themselves into Afghan culture.

The movement of Afghan people to countries within Europe and the USA is also explored. This was highly interesting as it explored the ways in which these people were able to adapt to new surroundings, but still retain their culture. The importance of culture was explored throughout, in particular the way in which people remain rooted to their cultural experiences, even when displaced from their country of origin.

Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the other two, I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in exploring the history and culture of Afghanistan. Yet again, this is a very insightful book that explores such a heartbreaking history.

Gin and tonic fish and chips with a chilli and cucumber jam

Ingredients (serves four)

  • Four fillets of cod (skinless works best)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50 ml of gin
  • 250 ml of tonic (you can use 300ml of cider or beer if you don’t want to use gin and tonic)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • chips (to serve/these are optional)
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 2 chillis
  • Half a cucumber (with the seeds scraped out of the middle)
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 100ml water
  • A small bunch of fresh mint and coriander
  • Chilli flakes (optional)

Method

  • I usually make the dipping sauce/jam first so that it can cool a little before I serve it with the fish.
  • Chop the chillis and cucumber into even sized cubes.
  • Heat the sugar, vinegar and water in a saucepan until boiling. You can add more sugar if you’d like it a bit thicker, I normally do this just by judging the texture of the sauce on the spoon but don’t forget it will thicken as it cools.
  • Add the chillis and the cucumber and cook for around a minute. At this point you can add 1/2 teaspoons of chilli flakes if you’d like the dipping sauce to be spicier (I do this but I like really hot food!)
  • Chop the fresh herbs and stir in at the end, season to taste.
  • This makes quite a lot of sauce but it does keep in the fridge for about a week, it’s yummy served with grilled halloumi!
  • Fill a deep fryer with the oil. I don’t have a deep fryer at home so I use a Wok and fill it about a third of the way up to shallow fry the fish rather than deep frying it. Heat the oil up until it gets hot enough to fry (to check this drop a bit of your batter in and if it sizzles it is hot enough).
  • To make the batter mix the flour with the gin and tonic (or your other fizzy alcohol/soda water if non-alcoholic) until combined and season with salt. The batter will be quite thick, it sticks to the fish better this way.
  • Dip the fish into the batter and make sure that all of it is coated fully, this can get quite messy!
  • Fry the fish (in batches if the pan is quite small) until golden brown. Turn the fish over after around 5 minutes if using a Wok.
  • Drain the excess oil using kitchen paper.
  • Serve with the dipping sauce, chips and peas! (I serve mine with crushed chilli and mint peas but I’ll put this recipe up soon!)

Review on ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins

Most people may know Paula Hawkins from her novel ‘Girl on the Train’, which is an absolutely amazing book, but I think that ‘Into the Water’ is equally as mysterious and exciting to read. I had to buy this novel as soon as it came out, after reading ‘Girl on the Train’!

It’s a similar ‘who dun’ it’ type novel, with the mysterious death of Nel Abbot being investigated. The novel is written using diary entries, from the points of view of numerous characters, from different times over a period of deaths that occur at the ‘drowning pool’. Although Nel’s death is the main one that is investigated, there are lots of other deaths that are brought to light within the novel, adding several layers to the story. Although I thought the layout of the book allowed the reader to gain a vast insight into the mystery surrounding the suicides of the town, I did think it was occasionally difficult to follow. The text changes tense and characters often and it’s easy to loose track and forget whose point of view you are reading from, I had to go back to the beginning of chapters a few times to double check!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I didn’t think it was as good as ‘The Girl on The Train’ but it was an excellent book either way. I didn’t expect the ending and as soon as I finished the book I wished there was a second one that I could read in order to find out more! Definitely one to read for any fans of crime fiction/mystery novels!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khalid Hosseini

If you’ve read my ‘about me’ page, you’ll know that this book is my favourite! I’d been meaning to read this ever since I studied Khalid Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ for A Level English but I never got the chance until I’d finished my studies at University. I’d already really enjoyed reading ‘The Kite Runner’ but I thought that this book was even better!

Hosseini offers an insight into the lives of Afghan people and the different complications faced by men and women alike. This text predominantly focuses upon a female journey within Afghanistan, exploring issues of restrictive traditional beliefs paired with growing modernity in larger cities. This runs alongside the numerous conflicts that have ravaged the country. There are lots of different traditions, beliefs and ways of living that are explored within the text, highlighting issues faced by different types of women (and men).

The text follows the journey of two female characters who have both been bought up in different ways and therefore have different demeanours. However, as their paths cross, the text becomes one that highlights female companionship and solidarity. Throughout the story there were times when I had goosebumps just reading about some of the events that (although fictional in the text) women within Afghanistan would have experienced.

From beginning to end the story is absolutely heartbreaking, but I think it’s important that it is as it highlights the real life horrors that have occurred, this is what makes the story all the more powerful. I definitely recommend this book and I know a lot of people who have also read it would say the same.

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn

To be honest, I came across this book on accident after searching online for some recommended crime fiction novels and it definitely did not disappoint!

After hearing some good reviews about the authors work (and after watching the film adaptation of Gone Girl) I had really high hopes for this text and they were definitely fulfilled. It’s around 400 pages long and I read it all in about 3 days, I just couldn’t put it down!

The novel jumps straight in with the Day massacre and leads the reader down the path of the events of that day, using past and present tenses to explore how the protagonist, Libby Day, aims to discover the truth about the murders of her family. The use of entries from the points of view of Patty and Ben Day add to the suspense of the book and definitely made me want to read more. Each chapter finished on a sort of cliff hanger, making a reader want to read through the next chapters in order to revert back to the individual story lines to find out what happens next. The way that Gillian Flynn incorporates different tenses and points of view really allows the reader to become involved in the ‘solving’ of the mystery.

Throughout the text, the mystery surrounding the massacre was kept hidden. At some points in the text I was definitely sure that Ben was guilty and during other points I wasn’t so sure. I definitely did not predict the end of the novel, which I love about these kinds of texts! When the novel came to its’ end, I realised that there had been little clues littered throughout that I hadn’t noticed were of significance until they were reintroduced by the protagonist.

As well as the murder mystery, I really enjoyed experiencing the development of Libby. She begins as an unlovable character, but I was definitely rooting for her by the end. The exploration of mental health and depression was fascinating as Flynn explored the ways in which childhood trauma affected the protagonist and how by researching deeper into the “Dark Places” of her past, she was able to overcome some of her fears and anxieties surrounding the outside world.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and mystery stories and I will definitely be reading more of Gillian Flynn’s work in the near future!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini

If you’ve read my review of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ you’ll know that I find Hosseini’s work both powerful and heartbreaking. ‘The Kite Runner’ certainly fits that description too! As suggested in my previous review, Khaled Hosseini uses his work to portray the history of Afghanistan and explores the traditions and cultures that make the country. In contrast to ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, this text predominantly observes a male point of view, exploring a friendship between two young boys who are of different ethnic groups existing within Afghanistan.

I studied this text at A Level which really let me grasp a deeper understanding of the cultures that were portrayed within the text. Although this book does explore some of the aspects of Afghanistan conflicts that a reader may be familiar with, it also explores the internal conflicts between Pashtun and Hazara ethnicities, the latter being an ethnic minority within Afghanistan. The way that Hosseini observes the two ethnicities through the eyes of children is fascinating, and as his protagonist grows into an adult there is a clear change as to how he approaches this particular issue, as well as new ones that he faces as Afghanistan is taken over by the Taliban. In this way, the novel is very much a Bildungsroman (a coming of age story) where the reader is observes the development of the protagonist and country alike.

Like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ this book deals with some horrific events, that would certainly have occurred in real life within the setting it is placed. This makes the reading of it the more harrowing but powerful, it really makes you consider how fortunate we are to have been born and bought up in different circumstances than many children across the world. It was difficult to read some parts, but the ending is definitely worth it, there is at least, some form of light to be found at the end of the tunnel for the protagonist.

I definitely recommend this book, and the other works of Hosseini. It is not only a gripping tale but also one that serves a purpose in teaching it’s readers about a culture that has often been overlooked by many, if not recently forgotten. I think I will definitely be re-reading this soon as it has been around five years since I last read it!

Happy reading,

Meg x

A little bit about the page…

Hi there!

My name is Meg and I’m an English graduate from Coventry University, specialising in literature. The main reason that I have created this blog is to share my love of reading and to give you an insight into some of my favourite (and not so favourite) books. I will cover numerous genres, although my favourites genre to read for pleasure would be crime fiction!

As well as writing book reviews I will also be writing about my other interests (I’m very new to this so I haven’t quite decided what to write about yet!) and things that inspire me. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite recipes that I hope you will try at home!

I hope that you enjoy reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it, please contact me regarding any requests or suggestions on book titles to review.

Happy reading!

Meg x