the night letters
by denise leith

Set in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan, The Night Letters follows Sofia Raso, an Australian doctor who has been living in Kabul's bustling Shaahir Square for the past five years. She knows that living peacefully in Kabul requires following two simple rules: keep a low profile; and keep out of local affairs. 

When threatening letters from the Taliban begin to arrive in the night and young boys start disappearing from Kabul's largest slum, Sofia becomes alarmed that their disappearance is related to the practice of bacha bazi. 

While the Square is encased by fear, an elegant former warlord proves to be an unlikely ally and Sofia’s former lover re-emerges with a warning.  Whilst the search to find the boys intensifies and Sofia grapples with the renewed attraction for her lover it becomes clear that answers will come at a heavy price.  

The Night Letters is a bittersweet love letter exploring the realities of living in modern Afghanistan. It examines the roles of women in Afghan society, revealing their strength and drive for agency. It also examines bacha bazi, or ‘boy play', the deeply despised underbelly of paedophillia in Afghanistan. With powerful men, including warlords, politicians, and high-ranking military and police officers practicing the sexual slavery of young boys there is little possibility of finding justice.

Gripping and evocative, The Night Letters takes you to the heart of Kabul in a story of secrets and friendship, but also one of love in all its imperfect guises

Full of wonderful prose and with a stunning sense of place, The Night Letters is a story of love, betrayal, corruption and friendship. It made me weep and cheer.

Michael Robotham, author of When She Was Good

‘A bittersweet and astonishingly detailed narration of both the simplicity and complexity of life in Afghanistan. What I loved about the book is that it does not represent Afghan women as passive and docile, but you will learn about their stories of bravery, struggles, and persistence.’

Aalam Gul Farhad

Awards and Acknowledgement


The Night Letters audio book (reading by actor Blazey Best) is one of the winners of the Audiofile Magazine's prestigious Earphones Award for March. 

Read the short review of the book and listen to an excerpt of Blazey's reading.

cover design

Emily O’Neill’s cover for The Night Letters has been long listed for the Australian Book Design Awards.

The Night Letters remains an elegant, meticulously researched novel that captures the human complexity of Afghan society, upending Western preconceptions as it unfolds.

The Age

Filled with strong women The Night Letters is a poignant story with characters that will touch your heart and leave you wanting more.

The Burgeoning Bookshelf

The Night Letters by Denise Leith is the best book I have read this year… It has touched my mind, heart and soul.

Neelam Babul Goodreads

There was so much richness in this novel: layers of well-built characters with their foibles and strengths; beautiful passages of prose in homage to the landscape and the people; a story that held the reader to the end; food for thought for the outsider looking in and above all empathy and non-judgmental affection from the author for her subject.

Living Arts Canberra

Unforgettable characters grace the pages in a story that is graceful, powerful and bittersweet as every character forms an identity that touches the heart...

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the night letters