Finished the Kite Runner in a single night, Hosseini is certainly a sound storyteller, and a rather traditional one at that. However, it would be unwise to heap any praise other than that upon him. The themes are mostly well-tested, love, loyalty, betrayal, alienation and redemption; the same (forgive me) as the Gospel, and plot seemed mostly predictable, although I found the final confrontation between Amir and Assef (and also the escape from Kabul) slightly far-fetched.
Still, many great novels revolved around similarly simple themes, so it’s hardly the theme’s fault. What I found fault with was the language, and in consequence, the depiction of characters, though I have a faint feeling that perhaps Hosseini can’t be blamed for this (too many creative writing class taught by Hemingwayesque philistines I suppose). The language seemed, in many places, unnecessarily blunt and even cliché-ridden, not a language to depict intricate emotions or nuanced conversations, and not particularly colourful either, though it was suited in the Kite-running scene. The characters were also somewhat flat, in that they conformed to one’s stereotypes, the domineering yet loving father, the slightly self-conscious and neurotic son, the loyal servant and etc. Never once throughout the novel was I surprised by the characters, as they all seemed so obviously predictable (a slight exception could be made for the ending perhaps).
As for the much-touted descriptions of a bygone age, one would be better off with Proust. The lives of upper classes of Kabul in the 1970s became one giant sequence of strange feuds and tasteless parties, hardly the impression one would imagine befitting of an ancient and distinguished race of people. However, the life as a newly immigrant at Fremont seemed much more authentic and rounded (I remember seeing similar groups of Middle Eastern gentlemen in garage sales in Canberra), and it is a portion of the book which I heard was sadly neglected in the film version.
Therefore I cannot but pity ourselves, when the Chinese version was published to great acclaim, knowing that there are so many more intricate and moving stories of loss and repentance of our own, only waiting to be discovered.