Life in post-liberation Kabul, as observed by a streetwise Afghan boy with active hormones.
British journalist Busfield’s debut takes a lightweight, often jaunty look at Afghan society through the eyes of a child whose family was destroyed by the Taliban. Fawad’s father and brother died fighting with the Northern Alliance, and his sister Mina was abducted. After a miserable period living with relatives, Fawad’s mother finds work as housekeeper for three Westerners, Georgie, James and May. Living under their roof offers the boy an insight into foreign ways and the author an opportunity to deliver lessons in cultural contrast. The story develops into a series of social episodes, often centered around romance. Fawad develops a strong affection for Georgie and is drawn into her problematic love affair with Haji Khan, a powerful, wealthy and handsome Afghan. Fawad’s mother finds a new suitor, and there are love interests too for James and May. The death of one of Fawad’s friend in a bombing temporarily darkens the mood, but Busfield’s preference for fairy-tale, comic and soap-opera developments means that happy endings can be expected.
A derivative title that invites comparison with Khaled Hosseini, but this self-consciously charming coming-of-age story can’t match A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) for emotional engagement, resonance or authenticity.