A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

The amount of people that walked through the Starbucks I used to work at holding a copy of The Kite Runner was astonishing. Even at family gatherings, there it was lying on the kitchen counter or coffee table—I couldn't escape it. I was convinced The Kite Runner was having a great time tricking me into glancing right at it and would one day randomly appear in my backpack though unknown spirits. Out of spite, I continued to make as many quick head turns towards the other direction and as a result, clearly became oblivious to the existence of A Thousand Splendid Suns. With a chosen lack of awareness and attempted avoidance, it is easy to make this mistake between the two. But this months post isn't completely about The Kite Runner, rather Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which turns out ISN’T a new book. Hii 2007.

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A U T H O R: 
Khaled Hosseini

P U B L I S H E R:
Riverhead Books

B O O K  D E S I G N E R:
Amanda Dewey

C O V E R  D E S I G N E R:
Honi Werner

T Y P O G R A P H Y:
FF Confidential, Eurostile, Baskerville and Clarion Std.

S U M M A R Y (from Amazon)
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.


C O V E R:

I'm sure it's easy for most people, at least the disinterested ones, to confuse the cover of The Kite Runner with the cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns when they're separated from each other. But all one has to do is look at the books side by side, squint from a distance and give it a bit of time before you start testing your memory trying to find the differences between the two; you'll see you might mix the title with the wrong image, or shift the typefaces around. But this isn't a bad thing; this means there is visual consistency within the authors novels, allowing it to trigger a sense of recognition to even the most casual passerby without even really thinking about it. The sense of recognition wouldn't be as effective without the hyper visibility of The Kite Runner, whether it was from the New York Times Best Seller list, the beloved Oprah's Book Club list, or your Aunt.

These covers offer an instantly recognizable visual system to the authors works and can ultimately sit comfortably within a predictable form of gestalt, where type and image will shift around to the blank covers of the next top seller. When it does, the book becomes vulnerable to skepticism of how the new book will be any different, if not better when you're not thinking about how it was directly marketed for consumption. It depends on who you are. I suppose it's all a balance of consistency, tone and of course, marketing. Though many authors fall into this category, fortunately Hosseini bypassed this potentially dangerous path, with his latest book, And The Mountains Echoed, which breaks the very pattern it was starting to form (along with all the various editions). I don't mean to say this type of consistency in books is bad thing, I generally think most appreciate or don't think about it at all, but when you unnecessarily despise it already, then there is no hope for a new audience.

My main disappointment with this cover, aside from the use of Eurostile, was the lack of representation of both women on the cover. An obvious statement, sure, but the book is about the lives of these two women, not just one. Though if the cover is changed to reflect a more obvious, yet abstract consideration, it would break the mold carried between The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns…and we wouldn't want to mess with that horizon line that connects the two, now would we? 
 

T Y P O G R A P H Y:

I was pleased with the design of this book, for there was a good number of typefaces used—none of which were too difficult to pinpoint. The most recognizable typeface was FF Confidential, which was used just for the cover title and author, which carried over to the spine of the book. The second most recognizable typeface was, Eurostile, which definitely seems like an odd choice, considering it has a more retro tech feel to it. I can understand the feeling the designer was going for, but unfortunately Eurostile has too much of a stigma attached to it, so if you use it in the wrong spot or without proper care, it will stick out and make you cringe, like the version of The Kite Runner pictured above. Baskerville was used for the body type and chapter numbers of the book, and there's really nothing interesting to say about it for this post, other than it's a classic typeface for the body type in books. This leads us to Clarion, which was used for the fake small caps for each new section within the chapter. I honestly don't think the addition of Clarion was necessary at all, Baskerville would've done the job just the same, if not better—it was probably only added for the spur on the capital R anyway, that's when you realize it's no longer Baskerville.

 

L A S T  W O R D S:
After reading the book, I'm slowly kicking myself in the foot for being unaware of its existence. Hosseini displayed the assumed realities of war in and out of the home though the eyes of two women. While going through the personal journey of these women, parts were challenging to get through, for it is filled with instances of severe physical and emotional abuse, along with the blatant disregard for women in society. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise. 

She Weeps Each Time You're Born

She Weeps Each Time You're Born

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol