And the Mountains Echoed is the third novel by Afghan author Khaled Hosseni. After reading and loving both The Kite Runner and One Thousand Splendid Suns, I knew I was in for a treat.
And the Mountains Echoed begins in 1950s Afghanistan as a father prepares to walk with his two small children from their small village to Kabul. He tells them a story about a monster who steals children from the village as a sacrifice – tearing them away from their families but unbeknown to the villagers, giving them a happy life they wouldn’t otherwise have. As the monster explains ‘cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour’.
In the next chapter it becomes clear that the father is taking his children to Kabul because he has sold his daughter to a wealthy couple out of desperation, so that she may have a happier life and the family will not starve.
And so begins a story told from many perspectives of family struggles, of the changing Afghanistan, of secrets and lies. This is a very different novel to Hosseni’s previous two – it is not as traumatic for one, but also Afghanistan takes a back a seat as the action moves beyond Afghanistan to Paris, Greece and the US. There are lots of stories and sub-plots to the main narrative which makes for an interesting and varied read.
I was gripped from the beginning. Hosseni weaves an intricate tale of love, family, betrayal and secrets that is highly enjoyable. There are some sections that dragged a little for me, but it’s another brilliant read from a brilliant writer. This is most definitely not The Kite Runner – but if you are a fan, you’ll be glad of something different!
To accompany this brilliant read, I made burani bonjon – an aubergine and yogurt dish which originates in Afghanistan. I took the recipe from the rather brilliant Veggiestan by Sally Butcher.
To make you will need:
3 aubergines (sliced into 5mm rounds)
One onion (chopped)
3 green chillies
Bunch of coriander
For the yogurt:
450ml thick strained yogurt (I used greek yogurt)
5 cloves garlic(!!) (crushed)
Juice of half a lemon
A few sprigs of fresh mint
– salt the aubergines and leave to drain for around 30 mins. Wash and pat dry.
– fry the onion and chillies until soft, then remove from the pan.
– fry the aubergine until lightly browned. You may need to do this in batches.
– sprinkle the aubergine with turmeric, then add the tomatoes, onion and chilli mix, plus 3/4 of the coriander. Add a little water then turn heat down and cover the pan (I covered with foil as don’t have a frying pan with a lid). Cook for around 30 mins.
– meanwhile make the yogurt sauce by mixing the yogurt with lemon juice, garlic and mint. Chill until the aubergine mix is ready.
– once you are ready assemble the dish! Take a serving platter and spoon about half the yogurt on the bottom. Cover this with the aubergine mix and layer with the remaining yogurt. Garnish with the remaining coriander and a sprig of mint.
Here’s a photo of the one I made earlier:
This is a very tasty dish, the aubergine mix was slightly sweet and very flavoursome but in my opinion it was a little too creamy! Too much yogurt so I’d recommend using about half the yogurt if like me, you struggle with a lot of dairy. I’ve ended up spooning as much of the yogurt mix as I could separate into the bin! Bit of a shame but apart from the yogurt, it’s a great dish!