February Wrap-Up: City of Thieves and Human Acts

February has flown by, as to be expected. I have been so so busy this month due to classes ramping up, that I’ve had little time to read. I only read five books this month, and since I have already reviewed three of them on my blog, I’ll only be talking about two of them today.

cityofthieves.final.inddFirst up is City of Thieves by David Benioff, which I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time. I remember my dad reading it and really enjoying it, yet when I asked him about it after I had finished it, he claimed to have no memory of reading it… However, my dad’s poor memory of this book must be an anomaly, since I think this story will stick in my mind for a while.

City of Thieves tells the story of Lev, a teenager living in Leningrad during the Nazi siege, who gets arrested for looting a German corpse, and thrown in jail. Overnight he is joined by Koyla, who has been accused of deserting the army. In the morning, they are given a bizarre mission – to find a dozen eggs in four days, in a city where food is scarce. Koyla and Lev decide to leave the city and journey across the German lines, resulting in several dangerous and exciting scenarios, where they meet a host of interesting characters, including a young girl who is an ace with a sniper.

This book isn’t a meditative story on war, and instead focuses on the absurdity of the entire situation. The plot carries itself along at a steady pace, always with the perfect amount of action to keep you reading, but always wanting more. Both Lev and Koyla are remain relatable, even though they live in an entirely different time and situation than we do today.

If you’re looking for a fun, quick read, and enjoy war stories (especially World War II), I would highly recommend you pick this up! I gave this book 4/5 stars!

9781101906729Next, I read Human Acts by Han Kang. I have been so excited to pick up her English translations, and while I do own The Vegetarian, I’m restraining myself from reading it until I need to complete it for a class I’m in. When I saw Human Acts at the library, I couldn’t resist checking it out.

Human Acts chronicles the lasting effects of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising which took place in Gwangju, South Korea. The uprising began after several university students were fired upon and beaten after protesting against the then-present, Chun Do0-hwan. It lasted for 9 days, during which protestors governed the city while the army came in and out, killing and beating people as it fought to regain control of the city. Human Acts focuses on the death of a young boy named Dong-ho, and how his death has continued to resonate with those who knew him at the time.

Human Acts is a truly moving portrait of such a horrendous and tumultuous time. This book opened my eyes to the horrors of both the Uprising, and the continuing punishment and suppression of people afterwards. Kang’s writing doesn’t directly criticize the government and its actions, but simple tells the stories of those affected, letting the reader absorb and react to the situation on their own. The honesty of Kang’s writing really allowed me to connect with the characters and events, as if I had experienced them as well. Her emotional writing puts you in the drivers seat, and created a deep feeling of sorrow and sadness within me, that I hadn’t felt from a book in a long, long time.

I will definitely keep thinking about Human Acts, and I am eager to learn more about the Gwangju Uprising in one of my lecture courses. I gave this book 5/5 stars!

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