by Julie HaleDecember 2008
Best bets for reading groups
A Thousand Splendid Suns
After more than two years on the bestseller lists, Hosseini's internationally acclaimed novel is now available in paperback. In his masterful follow - up to The Kite Runner, he takes readers back to Afghanistan, presenting events from that troubled country's past - including the Soviet takeover and the rise of the Taliban - as they appear from the perspectives of two very different female characters. Mariam, the daughter of a cleaning woman and a businessman, was born out of wedlock. Married at the age of 15 to a man in his 40s, she experiences a loveless relationship. Laila, who lives with her accomplished, forward - thinking parents in Kabul, is favored by her father but spurned by her mother, who showers affection on her brothers. When Laila meets Tariq, a brave young man who was injured in an explosion, she falls in love for the first time. But the friction between the Communists and the mujahideen make day - to - day living in Kabul dangerous, and soon Tariq and his family move to Pakistan. After a horrifying series of events leads Laila to the home of Mariam and Rasheed, she must make a decision that will change her life forever. The two women develop a special relationship that could only arise in a country ruled by terror. Spanning 30 years of Afghanistan's tumultuous history, this melancholy, beautifully conceived book reinforces Hosseini's reputation as a first - class novelist.
The White Tiger
Winner of Britain's Man Booker Prize for fiction, this insightful, cleverly composed debut novel explores the dynamics of class and race in contemporary India. Balram Halwai is a chauffeur who grew up poor in a rural part of the country, living without electricity and never attending school. Believing he has important information to impart as a lower - class citizen of India, Balram begins a correspondence with the premier of China, who is expected to visit, and part of the book consists of his letters to the Chinese leader. Balram's nightmarish experiences as a hired driver are also recounted with vivid detail, and they stand out as incidents from a daily life that is miserable and relentlessly grinding. Against this backdrop it comes as little surprise that Balram changes from a relatively levelheaded, enterprising young man into a merciless killer. He turns his rage upon his own boss - a wealthy man from Delhi - claiming that his anger is inspired by members of the upper - crust sector of Indian society, who live dishonestly and without concern for the lower classes. Filled with sharp observations about life in India as well as delicate touches of humor, this briskly paced book has much to offer readers. A reading group guide is available online at simonsays.com.
An Incomplete Revenge
Fans of Winspear's popular series will welcome the return of Ms. Maisie Dobbs, the private investigator - cum - psychologist who has been featured in four previous books. Maisie's great friend, the wealthy James Compton, has made plans to buy a grand house in the village of Heronsdene in Kent, but his doubts are aroused after a series of strange fires in the area. The presence of a group of threatening gypsies, who are in the village to assist with the hop harvest, only adds to the suspicious nature of the place, as does the coolness of Heronsdene's inhabitants. They don't like to discuss what when on there during World War I - a dark chapter in local history involving a zeppelin attack and the death of a family. When the owner of the house Compton hopes to purchase proves to be an unsavory character, Maisie's apprehensions about the wisdom of the acquisition are solidified. Drawn into a mystery involving the past as well as the present, she must use her expertise as a psychologist to unravel the dark goings - on in the village. Winspear writes expertly about England during the era between the world wars, and her infallible ear for syntax - both gypsy and British - lends a wonderful authenticity to this fascinating little tale of detection. Suspenseful and surprising, delightful and engaging, this is a book both mystery lovers and fans of literary fiction will savor.A reading group guide is included in the book.