Book Review: The White Book by Han Kang


The White Book is a short collection of prose which exudes the writers meditation on the topic matter of all things white. Throughout the book, we get a consistent imagery of white such as paper, snow and flowers. Although the book is well written, I did not enjoy the book and developed a love-hate relationship when reading the book. However, I do believe in a constructive review. Therefore, I should add that perhaps through translation some of the essence and authenticity of the book may have been lost.  Yet, I admire the poignant imagery, choice of words and the writing style. It truly is a well-written book. Below are my thoughts and commentary on ‘The White Book’.

What are some of the key themes of the book?
Aside from the key theme of the colour white and its association and representation, I believe this book deals with emotions, death, loss, trauma, memories and culture.

What is your favourite line from the book?

From the segment titled Small White Pills [The White Book (2016)]:

‘…if you could add up all the pills she’d ever taken, what  would the total be? How many hours of pain has she lived through?’

In my opinion, this line is reflective of the significance of medication in mental health. It highlights the effort and sparks a realisation of the emotional aspect of medication and attempts to quantify it.

Choose a short piece in the collection and attempt to explain it. 

The piece in which I have chosen is Sand. Please find the extract below:

Sand from The White Book by Han Kang (2016)

And she frequently forgot,
That her body (all our bodies) is a house of sand.
That it had shattered and is shattering still.
Slipping stubbornly through fingers.

This piece begins with the alliteration of ‘frequently forgot’ which emphasises the fact that we should not forget almost as a persuasive device. The repetition of the word ‘that’ aids our understanding of what the writer wants us to remember which can be summarise as we are:  a) sand and b) broken. This bleak imagery doesn’t end there. It takes the alliteration a step further through the use of ‘slipping stubbornly’ to emphasise our fragile and inevitable fate. We are dispensable no matter how we fight ‘stubbornly’ in life.


Four Stars

Final Thoughts
Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book but I believe it is important to mention that this is okay and realise that not every book you read you will enjoy. You should read this book if you enjoy prose/ poetic prose. You shouldn’t read this book if you don’t enjoy meditative and reflection pieces.

Thank you for reading!


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