The Kite Runner, said to be the first Afghan novel to be written in English, told an epic tale of individuals whose lives were lived across two continents amidst relentless political upheaval. Its author, Khaled Hosseini, stunned the critics with the extraordinary quality of that debut novel which has sold over eight million copies and will shortly be the basis of a film. All too often, the sequel to a fine book can disappoint. A Thousand Splendid Suns does not. The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, born a generation apart, whose lives come to be interwoven. Mariam is the illegitimate child of Nana and Jalil. The latter, who already has wives and children galore, is a successful businessman, reckoned to be a pillar of Afghan society and determined to deposit mother and daughter a safe distance from the prying eyes and wagging tongues of his community.