A Thousand Splendid Suns
AFGHANISTAN'S agony is mediated through its shut-in women in Khaled Hosseini's extraordinary follow-up to The Kite Runner.
Laila's father, a teacher made jobless by the Russian invaders, reads her The Old Man and the Sea, and that image of the great fish being towed tenderly home by the fishermen, while the circling sharks tear it to pieces, is his image of his country.
Devoted Mujahadeen, idealistic communists, torn lovers and the snipers and bombers in the hills are treated with the same tenderness by this most plotty of writers.
Hosseini narrates like a street storyteller, who must keep the paying audience fascinated by twists and turns and revelations of character or they'll walk away.
The result is a book that holds the reader more with every page. If you see someone on a bus dashing away a tear as they read, they're probably in the middle of A Thousand Splendid Suns.
The story spans the time from the Soviet invaders to the American invaders. But against these large themes is the larger story of two families, full of love and anger.
It's written at a distance - Hosseini has not experienced life as a woman, and has not lived in Afghanistan for many years - but his tale-telling skills triumph and he makes great characters and a believable country.