BOOK REVIEW: Human Acts, by Han Kang

BOOK REVIEW: Human Acts, by Han KangTitle: Human Acts by Han Kang, Deborah Smith
Published by Hogarth Press
Published: January 17th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 218
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads
 How long do souls linger by the side of their bodies?
Do they really flutter away like some kind of bird? Is that what trembles the edges of the candle flame?

In such a small volume and through interconnected chapters, Human Acts recounts the violent Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in the 1980s. Each of the chapters has a different voice telling his or her version of the events, and the effect is haunting. Human Acts is just over 200 pages long, but it seemed so much more than that. I had to set it aside sometimes because the emotions and events told by the very human voices was too much to bear. I’m not usually emotionally overwhelmed by books, but Human Acts illustrates some of the very worst acts a human being could do to another being.

Each chapter follows the perspective of someone involved in the uprising from the time it happened in 1980 to the present time in 2013. I think what I liked most about it is Han Kang’s own perspective of the events in the epilogue. Compared to her previous novel, Han Kang’s Human Acts seems more real, visceral, and grounded, and somehow that made everything about the lengths humanity will go to prove their point that much more terrifying.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a necessary read. Han Kang has a way with words that digs at your very core and I’ve not stopped thinking about this book since I’ve finished it. It’s a timely read, especially in today’s political climate.

Thanks to Crown Publishing/Blogging for Books for a review copy!

BOOK REVIEW: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

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BOOK REVIEW: The Vegetarian, by Han KangTitle: The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Deborah Smith
Published by Hogarth
Published: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 188
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
AmazonBook Depository
Goodreads

Han Kang’s The Vegetarian is a slim novel that is packed with things and ideas that leave the reader thinking long after the book is closed. While I found the characters and the varying points of view interesting, I found that something was missing. Something that feels lost in translation. I think it’s incredibly impressive that Deborah Smith studied Korean for seven years and then translated this book, but I think that her limits definitely showed in her translation. Some parts of it felt clunky, and some parts of it felt skimmed over. What I felt was lacking was a cultural significance as to why the members of Yeong-hye’s family found her vegetarianism so fundamentally shocking.

But most of all, I liked the different insights from other people in Yeong-hye’s life. I thought it showcased the difficulties one woman faced in the midst of a very personal decision. Her decision was never taken seriously, no matter what her reasons were for making it. Yeong-hye lost everything because of her fastidious decision to become a vegetarian, and her decision affected her entire family, essentially cracking the family’s foundation.

It’s a short novel, and it’s certainly worth reading if you enjoy reading prize-winners, international/translated fiction, and fiction about the lives of women in the aftermath of the choices they make.