Review: The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest

42 - The Bricks That Built the Houses

Rating – 3*

I went in to this book blind, having read both of Tempest’s poetry books published I knew I had to give her turning her hand to prose a go. It was, as expected, glorious. Tempest’s background in rapping and poetry is evident in this book with the way she writes her prose, it’s lyrical and when reading it I couldn’t help but find a light rhythm to her words in places.

Ultimately, this book follows the lives of Harry and Becky – although Leon is mentioned in the blurb he has a much less prominent role. Along the way we meet and array of characters, we learn their stories and each one has a part in the forming of the people that Harriet and Becky are today. Even though the plot, what little of it there was, didn’t really resound with me I felt like I knew Becky and Harry, and all the people we were introduced to over the course of it, simply because she has such a grasp on people.

What Tempest excels at in this novel is her depiction of family dynamics. The way in which she paints the characters, and the overlaps and intersections of their lives are definitely her strength. She really just gets the human psyche, each character – and there are plenty – is unique and has their own voice; and yet it is still her voice which resounds.

This is definitely a character study, if you want a plot driven book this probably isn’t the one for you. While the plot is rather thin, and I love a plot driven book, this was a nice break in pace of my usual reads. I just found myself longing for more prose, and less dialogue (as anyone who has read my blog for some time now will know, I’m not a big fan of dialogue in books which can be quite unfortunate!)

As debut novels go, this as a good one. It didn’t engage me as fully as I had hoped, if there were more prose I would have easily given this 4*, however as it stands I feel it has to be a 3* – and a lowish one at that. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I really can’t wait to see what she does next, this woman is seriously talented!

Review: Human Acts – Han Kang

41 - Human Acts

Rating – 4*

I feel very conflicted about this book, on the one had it is a masterpiece – I cannot deny that, however I didn’t feel that compulsion to read it. It was a book I could put down and not read for a while, and that is what disappointed me. Human Acts is a brutal book, and tells of a period of South Korean history that I didn’t even know happened.

The book is split in to 6 chapters, each from the perspective of a different character affected by the massacre and also using a variety of different narrative voices. Each of these voices is so distinct and unique it’s quite special – much like The Vegetarian was – and I think that Han Kang’s ability to capture so many different voices, and Deborah Smith’s ability to then translate them, is incredible. Often, when there are many different voices in a novel, they get lost amongst each other but with the combination of Kang and Smith that just doesn’t happen.

Human Acts really drained me reading it, I think I should have just set aside an afternoon and read it in one go because it’s a book that needs your attention, but for me it just wasn’t one I could curl up and read in bed which made the reading experience of this quite jolting and an uphill struggle. It’s a book you have to completely get immersed in and I feel bad I couldn’t give it that. I feel if I did I would have rated it completely differently.

As I have said though, this book is a masterpiece and one I will read again in the future, maybe in one sitting on a rainy afternoon while wrapped in a blanket. I’m no literary critic, and there are plenty of reviews on goodreads which take this book apart and really analyse it and do it justice and that’s just something I’m not going to be able to do.

So, this book is incredible and if you have patience and time to completely immerse yourself in a book, if you want a book which will really challenge you and make you think about humanity… this is the book. I don’t think you would be at any disadvantage to pick this up over The Vegetarian as a first book by Kang, all I know is I will definitely be picking up anything she writes in the future – and I hope they keep the pairing of her and Deborah Smith.