The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Not to be dismissed as a cheap adaptation, the artwork of this speedy variant shows good care has been taken to convert the modern classic into a new form.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 136 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408815250

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A confession. If there's one book I'm not likely to read, it's that which everyone else is reading. If it turns into a hugely popular film for all the left-wing chattering classes to rave over, then that's just more grist to my mill – I'll always have a chance to catch up on it later on, even if I never take that opportunity. I'm not alone in acting like this – see a friend and colleague's similar admission when reviewing White Teeth by Zadie Smith. But at least, through the medium of the graphic novel, the book reviewing gods have conspired to let me see just what I'm missing, with this adaptation, by Italian artists, of a hugely successful – and therefore delayable – novel.

Afghanistan, the 1970s, and while two boys – the one the son of the household, the other the main servant's lad – have an idyllic upbringing, things are not perfect. The Soviet invasion is just round the corner, and ethnic differences are closer than that. Indeed, they are to the fore in the act of betrayal this story revolves around.

You probably knew that, so to this telling. It's brisk, as befits the format, filling in what seem to be all the key elements in good order, if perhaps the pace of some major wordless scenes stand out too much from the average panel. Certainly it's not a wordy graphic novel, and takes much less time than the original.

Out of original story, adaptation and artwork, it's possibly the latter which edges it as the best element. The inking is noticeably heavy, conveying character through facial lines and hair (evident particularly when the Taliban arrive). Not a shirt is left uncreased, not a background undetailed. The colouring is best – a sort of digital airbrush with gaudy neon styling for childhood and a much more subdued palette for adult times. It shows it's been directed to a very high standard.

So, do I now think I missed out for eight years? Well, yes and no. The abject irony of promising a young Muslim lad an idyllic, redemptive childhood of his own in the USA just months before 9/11 surely proves Hosseini only offered half the story, or at best a naively happy ending. But the story beats that provided for this ending, in the slightly abrupt fashion here, knock any sentimentality out of things. Some will turn their noses up at this as being an adaptation too far, but for those like me it shows through some fine craft why so many declared the original an instant, timeless classic.

You can read more about Hosseini's second novel here. For further, exotic Asian countries in graphic novel, but this time non-fiction, we still recommend Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle.

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