​Review: Human Acts by Han Kang

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.


My Review:

I want to go ahead and say up front that I DNFed this book so I’ll simply be writing this review on the parts that I did read. Also, because it’s a DNF for reasons other than problematic content or a dislike of the book, I won’t be giving it a rating on my blog.

The secondary characters are all developed well enough that I have no trouble imagining them as real people, which is good because Human Acts is based on a true story (per the introduction). The point-of-view characters are given introductions using a heading at the beginning of each chapter.

The story takes place in Korea and spans from the year 1980 all the way through 2013. The setting is described in beautiful details scattered through the story so as to give the reader information without being blatantly obvious about it. I think the way Han Kang does this really speaks to her incredible skill as a writer.

I really love the way that Han Kang writes. It’s almost like her words poetically bring the entire piece together. The entire story flows so well that it’s really easy to read. Between my love of her general writing style and the knowledge that this novel in particular was written as a form of resistance, I really wanted to love this book and be able to sing it’s praises.

And, to an extent, I can. I was unable to get into this story for one simple reason: it is narrated in second person. For some reason, I just have trouble sticking with the story. It’s as if each use of the word “you” jerks me out of the story and forces me to find my place in it again. If you’re able to enjoy second person narration, I 100% recommend this book to you. It’s as beautifully written as anything else Han Kang has produced. I just don’t seem to be able to look past the point of view to enjoy it. No one is more disappointed with this than me.

Have you read Human Acts? What were your thoughts?

If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on a copy of Human Acts and let me know if you enjoy it! A few places you can go to get your copy are:

For more information about Han Kang and her work, visit her Goodreads page.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.


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