We read Han Kang’s Human Acts in October, a book and author we’d all been hearing a lot about. Some members of our book club had already read The Vegetarian and found Human Acts a very different read. We could all appreciate the book. It was well-written and the subject matter was dark and interesting, but not everyone connected with it as much. For me, the book felt a little too distant, making it hard to really feel the emotions the characters are going through, while others called the writing intimate and highly emotional. There definitely was a lot to discuss and I’ll leave some of the discussion questions we talked about at the end of the post.
For now, we’ll recommend some other books you might want to try reading as well! If there’s a book you’d recommend to fans of Human Acts, let us know in the comments!
Reading recommendations for Human Acts
The White Book is Han Kang’s latest translated book. It’s supposed to be her most personal and experimental, a trend she’s been setting along Human Acts as well. She wrote it during a writer’s residency in Warsaw and tells the story of a city’s and the narrator’s violent past.
What I always enjoy about reading historical fiction, is learning about a specific place in time. Recently, another Korean novel was published about a different, but also important time in South-Korea’s history. Forgotten Reflections is about the Korean War and is a mythical tale of a grandmother’s secret life during the conflict between North and South Korea.
Leaving historical work behind and going into experimental Korean fiction, I’d like to recommend The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun. It’s very different from Human Acts in that it’s a psychological thriller, but it does deal with similar ideas of loneliness and violence. The story is about a man who awakens from a coma, badly disfigured and paralyzed after a car crash that also killed his wife. His mother-in-law takes care of him, but neglects him, and instead starts digging larger and larger holes.
Discussion Questions for Human Acts
- What did you think of the use of second person perspective? Did this make the stories feel more or less personal?
- Do you see Human Acts as a novel or a collection of short stories? Did you have a favorite chapter/story?
- Throughout the different perspectives, we missed the perspective of one of the soldiers fighting in the uprising. Would you have liked to read about this as well and was there another perspective you missed on the story?
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