Book Review: The White Book by Han Kang

Oct 9, 2018

The White Book by Han Kang

From the author of The Vegetarian and Human Acts comes a book like no other. The White Book is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

Don’t die. For God’s sakes, don’t die.

I picked this book up at my local library. There is a display at the front where other library patrons suggest a book on certain criteria. If you like plot, you might like this book. Or if you like suspense you might like this other book. Mampreet suggested this book if you like prose. They didn’t put any reasons but I trusted them.

I’ve actually read and reviewed The Vegetarian as part of a mini book club that I was doing with a friend. Everyone who read it was a little flabbergasted by it. There was something very Murakami-esque about it. But I couldn’t deny that I really liked the writing.

The White Book is very minimal. The text is sparse but I imagine every single word was chosen very carefully. I can only imagine how the translator might have laboured over it. It’s prose to a tee.

In this book, Kang writes about her sister who only lived for two hours. In it, she imagines what her sister’s life would have been like if she had lived and if Kang had never been born. Kang also talks about living so that her sister could live and being haunted by her sister’s presence.

This is definitely an artsy concept kind of books. The design is a dead giveaway of it. There is a lot of whitespace on each page. Some passages only use one side of a page. There are random pictures scattered throughout. If you enjoy fancy prose but don’t mind lack of direction, you could give it a shot.

I can’t tell if I liked it. It was a quick and easy read. And I feel like I experienced some beauty for a little bit but nothing too special.