Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: Human Acts

Human Acts

Human Acts
Han Kang

This heartbreaking, emotional tale follows fifteen year old Dong-ho and others involved in the 1980's uprising in the Southern Korean town of Gwangju. As Dong-ho sets out with his friend to the demonstrations in the town, he watches as this same friend is shot and dies in the street. Dong-ho is unable to help him. He is also unable to tell his family and others what happened to his friend. Instead he joins them on their search to find him, knowing all along that they never will. This leads to his caring for bodies of other dead protesters, even as soldiers are reported to be on their way to squash the rebellion in the city. The fact that he stays behind has consequences not just for Dong-ho, who looses his own life but for his family and others who knew him.

The story is told from several perspectives and each narrator has been either a witness or a participant in the uprising. All of them have a story to tell and wounds that have not healed. Due to the trauma experienced they may never heal. The reader can't help but be moved by the experiences of each and the author's exquisite prose makes this book hard to put down. It's both moving and powerful at the same time. And for those unfamiliar with South Korean politics in the 1980's, the translator has done an excellent job of setting the stage for events in the story and the importance of Gwangju during this period.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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