We join San in 1970s rural South Korea, a young girl ostracised from her community. She meets a girl called Namae, and they become friends until one afternoon changes everything. Following a moment of physical intimacy in a minari field, Namae violently rejects San, setting her on a troubling path of quashed desire and isolation.
We next meet San, aged twenty-two, as she starts a job in a flower shop. There, we are introduced to a colourful cast of characters, including the shop’s mute owner, the other florist Su-ae, and the customers that include a sexually aggressive businessman and a photographer, who San develops an obsession for. Throughout, San’s moment with Namae lingers in the back of her mind.
Publisher: Scribner UK Publication Date: 20/02/2020 Length: 163 pages Genre: Translated Fiction | Korean Fiction | Contemporary Fiction
CW: sexual assault
Kim Ji-young is the most common name for Korean women born in the 1980s. Kim Ji-young is representative of her generation:
At home, she is an unfavoured sister to her princeling little brother. In primary school, she is a girl who has to line up behind the boys at lunchtime. In high school, she is a daughter whose father blames her for being harassed late at night. In university, she is a good student who doesn’t get put forward for internships by her professor. In the office, she is an exemplary employee who is overlooked for promotion by her manager. At home, she is a wife who has given up her career to take care of her husband and her baby.
Kim Ji-young is depressed. Kim Ji-young has started acting out. Kim Ji-young is her own woman. Kim Ji-young is insane.
Kim Ji-young is sent by her husband to a psychiatrist.This is his clinical assessment of the everywoman in contemporary Korea.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: AmazonCrossing Publication Date: 01/03/2018 Length: 167 pages Genre: Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction | Young Adult
For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.
As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.
One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.
Torn between a chance at self-discovery that he’s ready to seize and the prejudices of others that he can’t control, Sugihara must decide who he wants to be and where he wants to go next. Will Sakurai be able to confront her own bias and accompany him on his journey?
It’s the end of the month and it’s also nearly the end of my first week back to book blogging; this wrap up might be slightly odd this month as it is the first one. Even in this short space of time the welcome back I’ve from people in the community has been lovely and it has me very excited to continue! It actually makes me regret taking such a long break away from the book blogging sphere, but I’m pleased to be back.
Books read this month
This month I read a total of 9 books (7 physical books and 2 ebooks):
I really enjoyed pretty much everything I read this month, however there are three books in particular that stand out as my favourites…
Circe by Madeline Miller I’m not totally familiar with the story of Circe in Greek mythology despite reading a lot of it when I was younger, however, I really liked Miller’s take on the character. I loved seeing how Miller weaved her into so many other famous Greek tales. I want to write a full review on this book soon as a couple of lines does not do this justice at all.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee Unlike the other two on this list, this is one that I have managed to review this week! The way Lee seamlessly writes through four generations of a Korean family is incredible. Not only does she gets the pacing spot on to where literal decades in the book fly by, but she also has a great understanding of the people that she is writing about and brings them to life.
The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley This is actually a novel that I read this morning and it blew me away. A full review will be up in the coming days but the tl;dr is that I urge you to pick this up and read it as it is wonderful. It has even made me very nostalgic for my trips to Japan as it truly captures the spirit of Tokyo.
How did you get on this month? Did you read more or less than you expected/wanted? Did we read any of the same books? I’d love to know!
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
This year, as you will soon see from the coming reviews that I post, I have been on a kick of reading Japanese and Korean fiction. So, naturally, this book seemed like a perfect one to get stuck into and get stuck into it I did!
Although the novel spans four generation and covers several decades, many of which being some of the most important in the 20th Century, the novel flew by. The pacing was excellent, each change in setting or year was clearly identified at the beginning of the chapter so you were always aware of how much time had passed. The transition from year to year and character to character flowed so naturally. When the protagonists shifted from Sunja, to her sons, to her grandson, I was barely aware of it because it was done seamlessly. It felt right to have the shifts happen when they did as you have built a relationship with the characters from their lives as told by the previous protagonists.
This was also achieved through how Lee depicted each of the characters. You could tell that not only is she a talented writer but she really understands the people that she was portraying. There were several times where the characters just felt like real people and I became so invested in their lives because of this. Sunja is so admirable, I certainly wouldn’t have been as strong as her. I would have immediately caved and lived as Hansu’s kept woman. I was also fascinated by her sons Noa and Mozasu, seeing how they can be raised in the same situations but turn out so different (or so it seems at first).
Whilst this is a work of fiction, it isn’t difficult to believe that there were many Korean families that experienced hardships like this in Japan. Who most likely still face some similar hardships now. Min Jin Lee does a superb job of weaving history into the novel without it dominating the novel or the characters. You are aware of the wars going on, however they are not the sole focus and you see the events through how the family develops and reacts.
I could talk about this book for hours, as it’s one of my favourite novels that I read this year and potentially in general. However, I will restrain myself before this post becomes too long, and simply urge you to pick this book up for yourself!