This morning brings the news of a Taliban raid on an international hotel in Kabul. Innocent lives lost have added to the growing tally that amounts to the tortuous agony of Afghanistan. It takes a book like A Thousand Splendid Suns, however, to reveal the complexities of a society that lives with violence almost every day. Tribal factionalism, domestic oppression, international politics, resource exploitation, religious fanaticism and climate extremes – all are potent ingredients in themselves, let alone when mixed together and baked. Khaled Hosseini, also author of the well-acclaimed The Kite Runner and himself an Afghan refugee, traces thirty years of recent history through the eyes of two women almost literally thrown together by arbitrary acts of war. From the Russian invasion and expulsion, civil war, the rise of the Taliban and the American led “war on terrorism”, Mariam and Laila survive on their wits. At the same time, readers are afforded the opportunity to glimpse the aspirations and beauty of Afghan culture, albeit through the fog of war. Beautifully and sensitively narrated.