Month: September 2016

Review: The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So very fascinating and unusual, I’m undecided whether this was brilliant or ordinary, it is certainly metaphysical and explores ground that I’ve never read before. I don’t know whether I’ve ever read a book set in South Korea and I really enjoyed reading about the family dynamics, the culture and the societal attitudes, particularly those of husbands and wives.
One night a woman has a dream, a nasty violent dream and from that point on she realises that she cannot eat meat any longer. Meat seems to be an important part of life in her family and her husband is embarrassed at her decision. You get her story firstly from her husband, a man who I found it hard to like, from her sister’s husband, also strange and also from her sister. All of these people are concerned about her and as she becomes thinner and begins wasting away, they react in different ways. Her mental illness is increasingly difficult to deal with for everyone in her family, but she feels a compulsion to become one with the dirt and the forest.
All very different, very strange and nothing like anything I’ve read before. I did really like this novel and the writing is quite fabulous at times, but it is not one for everyone.

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Review: The Road to Winter

The Road to Winter
The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dithered between four and five stars for this and landed on 5, yes I would read this again, pretty sure I’d enjoy it just as much next time too. I’ll even read the next one when it comes out, that is something, I’m bad at series reading.

In a grim future Australia, where the seas have risen and then a virus has swept through, killed millions and pretty much wiped out the population – especially the women, life is very tough and lonely for 16 year old Finn. His family are all gone but left him well prepared, he has a great cache of supplies but is in constant danger of being attacked. He has a dog for company, I always love the dog characters and this one is no exception. Finn has made a life for himself, hunting rabbits, fishing, surfing and eking out an existence on what he can find when his routine is totally disrupted by the arrival of a group of ‘Wildings’ who are tracking a girl. This injured and vulnerable girl is Rose, and she needs Finn’s help, she is stroppy and damaged and Finn is overwhelmed but kind to her. She is searching for her sister and Finn is unable to resist helping her to find her.

What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it is not only a really well written dystopia, but that has much to say about current Australian politics. Rose and her sister are Siley’s, slang for asylum seekers, originally from Afghanistan, they are treated as slaves on farms and in factories as a way of solving the asylum seeker problem. Mark Smith makes his politics clear on this topic but not in any kind of preachy way, but in a humanitarian way which makes you think. It is interesting to see these issues tackled in this way, often there are bright red pointy arrows to an authors politics but in this case it is way more subtle.

If I was looking for a book to share with students in a class setting I think this would definitely be one I’d consider. It is full of contemporary issues, would enable lots of really good class discussion. I also really appreciated the format of the book and even though it is not a long book it really does look like an adult novel. That is a rare thing, in fact when I bought it I didn’t realise that it was a YA novel, and it needn’t be, this is a book for everyone. Text publishing are doing such great work in this field, I’m full of admiration for them.

I think it will appeal to the same audience who liked Station Eleven, The Passage etc and it will be a book I’ll throw at reluctant seniors who need something grown up but short. It is gritty and wonderful. Bring me the second one soon please.

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