The White Book
By Han Kang (Y), Deborah Smith, and and, Deborah Smith
From the winner of the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian comes a stunning meditation on the colour white; about light, about death and about ritualTweet
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This was a difficult book to review due to its format and received quite mixed opinions from our reading group. However I think our discussions made some of us appreciate certain aspects of the book which we didn't first acknowledge.
At first glance it seems like a simple poetic yet fragmented book about white things but there are many darker undertones which make it quite haunting. I found some pages mesmerising but others quite forgettable.
I think it is a book that is better to dip in and out of like a book of poetry, as you will pick up something new and profound each time. It will stay on my coffee table for a while.
A cathartic and savagely beautiful book about the family history we all carry within us. Read it like a collection of poems without judgement or concern for the thread or logic of the pages. Its sheer beauty, bravery and hidden pearls of wisdom make it a gift, one to keep on the coffee table to re-read and savour. It leaves a memorable impression like a great piece of art, with the light touch of a Monet and the honesty of a Picasso. My 14 year old thought it stunning and I am not sure what admired most, the mind behind the poetic prose or the translator.
I admit I probably approached this book in the wrong way and in looking for a ‘story’ I almost missed it. It is indeed a poetic study of love and loss with some beautiful passages which could have you thinking and reflecting for days. Unfortunately life doesn’t allow us much of that contemplation time, more’s the pity, and perhaps that’s what left some of us feeling just a little bit unsatisfied. Perhaps too we’ve been spoilt by some of the brilliant literature we’ve all read recently, books that have immersed us so immediately and easily in other worlds and other lives and unfortunately left the White Book looking a pale comparison.
Others in our group felt quite differently though and made me think that like any piece of art that provokes discussion, The White Book maybe just needs looking at from a different angle.
Breaks the boundaries of a novel and should be read as a book of poems. These self-contained chapters are all beautifully written yet too fragmented for my taste. Short enough to dip into and some really insightful words into life, nature and loss which I may revisit from time to time.
However, I found the author's sense of loss, guilt and cathartic journey a little incredulous. Can you really feel the pain of loss of something that was never yours?
I took an average rating there. Some thought no stars (kept it in line with the white theme) whilst others went for 5 stars including a, "best thing I've ever read' from a member's 14 year old's daughter.
Opinions varied according to how the book is read. Approach it as a 'loo book' which you dip in and out of, and you may just love it. Read it in one sitting, expecting a novel and you'll be disappointed.
We all agreed the language was exquisite, beautifully poetic and moving. And much like a piece of much admired art, some marvelled at the beautiful image created whilst stood blankly staring thinking what is the point?
Think this is a definite one for the marmite list.
On first sight I admit to being sceptical. However this proved to be a beautiful, poetically written collection of prose following a theme of life, death and grief through the whiteness that surrounds us. A book that can be dipped into as each page is a 'stand alone ' piece if writing .