If you’re after an insight into the Afghan black market of books, the bookselling trade in Kabul or information on Afghan literature, you may come away from this journalistic piece disappointed. There is very little about the bookseller and his shop and the bulk of the book is made up of stories from his family about their everyday life and hardship.
The majority of my book group felt that the subject matter was nothing new, having read several other books about life in Afghanistan or other strict Islamic countries. It certainly has a cultural value but doesn’t read like much of a story even though Seierstad tried to write it in novel form. Overall it seemed a bit disjointed and had far too many characters.
One thing I did notice was the similarities between real life Taliban rule and themes from dystopian fiction. The sixteen decrees cover things such as the banning of music and dancing sucking all life out of the country. There is also a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Extermination of Sin, more commonly known as the Ministry of Morality… 1984 anyone?