Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Flesh by Khanh Ha

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: March 30, 2013

The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai’s entire world will shift. FLESH takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort. In that emotionally harrowing world, Tai must learn to deal with new responsibilities in his life while at the same time acknowledging his bond, and his resemblance, to a man he barely knew--his father. Through this story of revenge is woven another story, one of love, but love purchased with the blood of murders Tai commits. A coming-of-age story, but also a love story, the sensuality of the author’s writing style belies the sometimes brutal world he depicts.

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I'm gonna be completely honest and tell you I wasn't sure what to expect from Khanh Ha's Flesh as I'm not well-versed in the history or culture of Vietnam. I came to it a blank slate and what I found was a book unlike anything I've ever attempted. 

I hardly even know where to begin in reviewing this piece and I think a lot of that has to do with how the book is written. Unlike a lot of writers, I don't think Ha has a particular message, but wrote this book out of a desire to make readers think. Consequently, everyone who picks it up will take something different from the experience. Ha doesn't lead his readers by the hand so much as he presents them with open ended questions regarding loyalty, honor, love and morality. It is an interesting approach and one I found most appealing.

Many reviewers focus on the Ha's poetic style and though I can certainly understand where these readers are coming from, I have to say I appreciated this piece for its depictions of life in a time and place so different from my own. A place where tradition can chart the course of a young boy's life and shape the man he ultimately becomes even as his life takes unexpected and unusual turns.

I will note I had a little trouble getting into this one, but once I found my stride, accepted the slower pace of the novel and Ha's descriptive style, I found Flesh an intensely addictive read. Flesh is a different kind of story, a powerful yet beautifully written, dark, dystopian fiction that I wont soon forget. 

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I lie down on the moss-covered ground while the phantoms walk over me, seeking something perhaps forever lost to them. A red poppy flower blooms, a handspan from my eyes. I see each petal open. I am no longer flesh, bound by nothing material.
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Check out all the stops on the historical fiction VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR of Khanh ha's Flesh

Monday, March 25
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 26
Review at Raging Blbliomania
Wednesday, March 27
Interview at Tribute Books
Thursday, March 28
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Friday, March 29
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, April 1
Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Tuesday, April 2
Review & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, April 3
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 4
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, April 5
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Monday, April 8
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 9
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, April 12
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, April 15
Review at bookramblings
Tuesday, April 16
Review & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Wednesday, April 17
Review at I Read a Book Once
Thursday, April 18
Review at Book Nerds Club

1 comment:

Mystica said...

Thank you for an amazing review