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The Vegetarian

“The Vegetarian” by Han Kang is this year’s winner of the Man Booker International Prize and was the set book for one of my book clubs last month. I had a hunt for it in one of my local book shops, and I was surprised at how small (and how shiny) it was. The cover is quite striking with a bright white bird wing juxtaposed against the red veins of a leaf. Beautiful, but somewhat visceral.

Originally published in Korean, “The Vegetarian” is about a woman called Yeong-hye who, after having a nightmare, decides to renounce eating meat. Her decision is met with shock, anger, despair and even violence by her husband, family and society. As Yeong-hye retreats further into her photosynthetic fantasy, she seems to become at once vulnerable and empowered. Any attempts to get her to eat meat only strengthen Yeong-hye’s resolve, and her family wonder how far her protest will go.

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This book was a slap in the face. I had no idea what to expect, and my eyebrows were raised almost to my hairline while I was reading this. Kang’s novel is as exquisite as it is disturbing. While her scenes are so vividly described as to be almost tangible, the character of Yeong-hye is left quite ambiguous. Yeong-hye could be anyone, and shows just how fine a line the path between passionate conviction and insanity really is.

“The Vegetarian” has been one of my favourite reads this year. I stayed up all night finishing this book, eyes wide. It is so original and outrageous yet at the same time quite plausible. A phenomenal read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for some excellent literature.

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July 26, 2016 · 6:31 am

The Lies of Locke Lamora

A lot of people have recommended this book to me. One of my beefs with the fantasy genre is a lack of originality. Anyone who has listened to me talk about fantasy has undoubtedly heard me complain about the tropes of orphan male character discovers powers/magic artifact, goes on journey, meets elves in the forest, meets dwarves in the mountain, battles orcs, saves the land. That old chestnut. Anyway, I’ve had a number of people recommend “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch as something different. Canty’s had a bunch of them in-store as new remainders, so I picked myself up a copy and gave it a whirl.

“The Lies of Locke Lamora” is different. Locke Lamora is one of the Gentleman Bastards; a small group of clever thieves in a city called Camorr who steal from the rich and give to…well…themselves. The slight, nondescript Locke is the brains of the band and master of disguise. His latest “Game” is a complicated affair involving intrigue and deception, and with his eyes focused on hoodwinking the wealthy Don Salvara, it’s not until too late that Locke notices the big power shift going on in the Camorr underground.

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Scott Lynch is a good writer. His dialogue is punchy, his world is believable and his characters are complex and interesting. The idea of a small, clever thief isn’t an entirely new one (see, e.g., Aladdin) but in this postmodern world it’s nice to read a book that isn’t about a boy who finds a mysterious stone that turns out to be *gasp* a dragon’s egg. I enjoyed this. I feel like “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is a good example of some of the excellent fantasy that’s been developing over the past couple of decades. I really enjoyed Lynch’s unbelievably creative insults and a few of them made me laugh aloud. The only thing I struggled with was that I found the pace a little frustrating. Lynch breaks up the story with a series of flashbacks outlining Locke’s youth, but at times they felt more like interruptions. Lynch is quite heavy-handed with the tension, and tantalises the reader with tidbits about Locke’s life which I assume get explained further in later books in the series.

“The Lies of Locke Lamora” is a fun, eloquent read and if you’re looking for some rolicking fantasy that isn’t childish in the slightest, then I think you’ll have a good time with this one.

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July 25, 2016 · 11:44 am