The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith) – #BookReview

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The Vegetarian (채식주의자) by Han Kang
Published by Hogarth Press on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Korean Books, Literary Fiction
Pages: 188
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

Buy The Vegetarian by Han Kang from Amazon now

Synopsis of The Vegetarian (by Han Kang):

In The Vegetarian (by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith), Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life before the nightmares began. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat.

In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy.

In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

 

First Sentence:

“Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way. To be frank, the first time I met her I wasn’t even attracted to her.” The Vegetarian (by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith).

 

My Opinion of The Vegetarian:

The first time I read The Vegetarian (by Han Kang), I thought it to be a very strange book. But after the second and third times I read it, I finally understand why it was considered such a great book.

Especially in a time where the #MeToo movement is spreading across not just the United States of America but also South Korea and the rest of the world.

Just take a look at these protest movements by Korean women this year:

“My Life is Not Your Porn” – 60,000 South Korean women take part in the fifth protest against hidden-camera photography in Seoul (South China Morning Post, 13 October 2018)

“How a masturbating monk and ‘Korea’s Obama’ drove Seoul to say ‘me too’ (South China Morning Post, 9 March 2018)

#MeToo movement takes hold in South Korea (BBC News, 26 March 2018)

 

Despite being published earlier than these kind of #MeToo movements across the planet, The Vegetarian is all about the suppression of the freedom of thought and action of women in South Korea.

The start of The Vegetarian begins with Yeong-hye’s husband talking of his wife. He says that she was unremarkable in every way. That the first time he met her he wasn’t even attracted to her. Yeong-hye is described to have a passive personality and to be the most run-of-the-mill woman in the world.

(Love Korean books? Then you need to check out The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong!)

This description is given by a man who describes himself as mediocre and wanting nothing extraordinary from work or life. This too reveals that he wants nothing extraordinary or unpredictable in his wife. He wants to merely be married with a simple woman and spend his days idling his time away watching TV while his wife silently reads dull books in her room.

But this simple life of passivity and plainness changes suddenly when Yeong-hye has nightmares of blood & meat and decides to become a vegetarian.

“But the fear. My clothes still wet with blood. Hide, hide behind the trees. Crouch down, don’t let anybody see. My bloody hands. My bloody mouth. In that barn, what have I done?”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang p.20

This seems to be a great shock to Yeong-hye’s husband.

The one time where his wife decides to do something for herself is where everything starts to fall part for him as well as the other people in Yeong-hye’s life.

Why must making decisions for oneself that goes against the grain of society push everyone else’s lives off a cliff?

Why does attempting to go outside the tiny box of an uninteresting, submissive wife and mother cause everyone to jump ship?

Why must Yeong-hye live her life according to the expectations of her husband, her family and other strangers?

“What threw him was the way that his brother-in-law seemed to consider it perfectly natural to discard his wife as though she were a broken watch or household appliance.”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang p.78

Just a simple choice of deciding to stop eating meat can cause so much trouble… why?

These kind of choices by individuals no matter their background, gender or personality are deemed to be so normal by people in United States, Australia and the UK. But here, in Han Kang’s novel this is the start of a nightmare for not just Yeong-hye but everyone in her life.

 

Han Kang on the Passivity and Oppression of Korean Women:

In fact, this theme of passivity and oppression of women is a common thread in other novels written by Korean women.

In South Korean modern literature, women are often depicted as helpless and presumed to be merely passive and uninteresting characters. Also, it is presumed that Korean women must be submissive and unyielding to not just men and society but also the forces of capitalism and the state.

“Don’t you understand what your father’s telling you? If he tells you to eat, you eat!”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang p.45

This theme of the hopelessness of Korean women gives a feeling of sadness and despair in most other novels. (Of course, the poor, the marginalized and workers of South Korea are also depicted in Korean novels in this way too).

There is nearly always a theme of sadness and hopelessness in Korean novels:

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook ShinPlease Look After Mom (엄마를 부탁해) by Kyung-Sook Shin (translated by Chi-young Kim) is a story about how the disappearance of sixty-nine-year-old So-Nyo causes her family to undergo a process of self-discovery in how much they actually know their mother. This book also explores the self-sacrifice of mothers in Korea for their children and families.

Pachinko by Min Jin LeePachinko by Min Jin Lee is a story about Sunja who immigrates to Japan after falling pregnant by Koh Hansu. Koh Hansu is in fact a married, wealthy business person and to hide the shame of the pregnancy Sunja marries Baek Isak, a Christian minister. This book explores the themes of the Zainichi in Japan (Koreans who immigrated to Japan after the Japanese colonization of Korea in 1905), who are considered as undesirable, second-class citizens.

One Hundred Shadows by Jungeun HwangOne Hundred Shadows by Jungeun Hwang (translated by Yewon Jung) is about the people who work in a set of buildings scheduled for redevelopment. It considers the lives of people who are stuck in the cycle of poverty, as well as the underclass who live on the margins.

But, in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian there is an important difference:

Yeong-hye’s quiet and passive resistance to the outside forces pushing her to conform to society’s expectations is led to its conclusion.

“I expected an answer from my wife along the lines of ‘I’m sorry, Father, but I just can’t eat it,’ but all she said was ‘I do not eat meat’ – clearly enunciated, and seemingly not the least bit apologetic.”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang p.45

Without spoiling the ending of the novel, I can’t describe exactly what happens.
But I can say that it isn’t what you would expect.

 

Han Kang on Passive Resistance and Rebellion

There is a kind of special form of resistance to be found in Han Kang’s novel. As seen in the recent protests in Seoul this year, this kind of resistance can be found in many young and old woman’s hearts.

Like Gandhi has shown the world in his passive resistance to the British, rebellion can take many different forms. What is surprising is that those with all the power can lose to someone with little power.

This is seen in Han Kang’s novel as well. Let me explain:

The Vegetarian is written in three sections. The first is titled “The Vegetarian” and is from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s husband.

“Look at yourself, now! Stop eating meat, and the world will devour you whole. Take a look in a mirror, go on, tell me what you look like!”
THe Vegetarian by Han kang p.55

The second section is titled “Mongolian Mark” and is from the point of view of the husband of Yeong-hye’s sister In-hye. While the third section is titled “Flaming Trees” and is from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s sister In-hye.

What is interesting is that Han Kang decided to write the novel from the point of view of everyone surrounding Yeong-hye, while denying Yeong-hye’s own voice from coming through the novel.

We never hear from Yeong-hye’s perspective directly, and only have the dream-like sequences of nightmares that Yeong-hye had which started her desire to become vegetarian. So truthfully, we never get to experience first-hand why Yeong-hye is doing these acts of desperation in her struggle to remain free of the pressures of society and her family. The only voices we hear are those outside of her plight. That is, those who are the agents of the suffering she has to endure while attempting to have a little independence and freedom in her life.

(Love translated books? Read the latest book from Korea here: The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo)

Despite these kinds of forces in her life, Yeong-hye is able to continue to her passive resistance. In the last section, her sister In-hye is the only one left who attempts to understand what is happening in Yeong-hye’s life. The others have all deserted her.

But in the end, it seems that Yeoung-hye did achieve what she set out to do.

 

Who is Han Kang (author of The Vegetarian)?

Han Kang is a South Korean writer who the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016 for The Vegetarian. The Vegetarian is a novel which deals with a woman’s decision to stop eating meat and its devastating consequences.

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Gwanju and at the age of 10 moved to Suyuri in Seoul. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University.


Han Kang got the idea of writing about plants or vegetation when she came across a quote from the Korean author Yi Sang. The quote was: “I believe humans should be plants.”

Han Kang has a lifelong fascination of the themes of violence and humanity. She writes about these themes in her other books as well, including: Human Acts (Portobello Books, 2016) and The White Book (Portobello Books, 2017).

 

Summary:

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith) is one of the most popular and fantastic books to come out in recent years.

It won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction in 2016 and has been wonderfully translated into dream-like prose by Deborah Smith.

If you haven’t read The Vegetarian yet, you really need to get a copy and read it today!

 

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about The Vegetarian (written by Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith) on Goodreads and Amazon.

Peace!
A.J. McMahon
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(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

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The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun (Translated by Sora Kim-Russell) #BookReview

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The Hole (홀) by Hye-Young Pyun
Published by Arcade Publishing on August 1, 2017
Genres: Crime Books, Korean Books, Thriller Books
Pages: 198
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun (Translated by Sora Kim-Russell) Book Review

Buy The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun from Amazon now!

Synopsis of The Hole (by Hye-Young Pyun):

A Bestseller in Korea, a Psychological Thriller about Loneliness and the Dark Truths We Try to Bury

In this tense, gripping novel by a rising star of Korean literature, Ogi has woken from a coma after causing a devastating car accident that took his wife’s life and left him paralyzed and badly disfigured. His caretaker is his mother-in-law, a widow grieving the loss of her only child. Ogi is neglected and left alone in his bed. His world shrinks to the room he lies in and his memories of his troubled relationship with his wife, a sensitive, intelligent woman who found all of her life goals thwarted except for one: cultivating the garden in front of their house. But soon Ogi notices his mother-in-law in the abandoned garden, uprooting what his wife had worked so hard to plant and obsessively digging larger and larger holes. When asked, she answers only that she is finishing what her daughter started.

Evoking Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Stephen King’s Misery, award-winning author The Hole by Hye-young Pyun is a superbly crafted and deeply unnerving novel about the horrors of isolation and neglect in all of its banal and brutal forms. As Ogi desperately searches for a way to escape, he discovers the difficult truth about his wife and the toll their life together took on her.

 

First Sentence:

“Oghi slowly opened his eyes. The light was blinding. Something flashed at the center of a grayish haze. He close his eyes, opened them again. The difficulty of this assured him.” The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun

 

My Opinion of The Hole:

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun (translated by Sora Kim-Russell) is all about an impending doom gradually and stealthily creeping up from behind you.

It was a great read but where I felt like I needed to run out of the room to freedom!

Ohgi wakes up after being a coma. Which is all good but he can’t move or speak, only being able to communicate with the world by blinking once for yes and two for no.

This is the start of his nightmare…

(Check out this meta-fictional murder by Han Yujoo – The impossible Fairytale)

His injuries are because of a car crash involving him and his wife, who died in the car accident. The only person left to take care of him is his mother-in-law.

That would be okay except for all the skeletons in the closet in his relationship with not only his wife, but also with his wife’s family.

” ‘Widows and widowers aren’t just to be pitied. Once you experience it, you find it has its good sides. Do you know what the best part of being a widow is?’

She looked around at them. Even S, who normally had so much to say, was keeping his mouth shut and trying to read her mood.”
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyung

Lacking movement and speech, Ohgi can only blink and gurgle to communicate and assert his will on what happens to him.

At the start of The Hole his mother-in-law seems like a kind person who stays by his side in the hospital. She also helps move him back to his place and arranges a live-in caretaker to look after him.

Ohgi also starts being able to move his upper body which seems to suggest that recovery is up ahead. However, as the novel progresses we see the skeletons come out of the closet one by one.

Where Ohgi merely wants to get better and continue his work as a university lecturer, his mysterious and somewhat strange mother-in-law begins to scrap away Ohgi’s hopes one by one.

(Love Thrillers from Korea? Check out The Plotters by Un-Su Kim here!)

The troubling nature of his mother-in-law is represented by Ohgi’s memories of his wife talking about her own mum. Ohgi’s wife talks of her mother being half-Japanese and often mumbling to herself in Japanese. She also talks of her mother suppressing her hatred and resentment towards her husband due to their own family secret. In effect, although Oghi’s wife is somewhat similar to her mother she too seems to be distant from both parents.

Ohgi himself begins to hear his mother-in-law mumbling the same strange string of Japanese while stuck movement-less in his bed. This sheds light that the woman who holds the power over his life as a person with a disability is not as kind as she seems. This begins to ramp up in the second half of the novel while his mother-in-law talks to his former work colleagues:

“Are you talking about a koi pond? That sounds wonderful.”
“Are living things wonderful? They’re filthy and disgusting. They’ll scrabble like crazy to try to survive inside that cramped hole…”
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyung


Hye-Young Pyung’s Use of Looming Disaster

The looming dark ending of the The Hole (by Hye-Young Pyung) is overshadowed by a dark black spot or hole at the start of each chapter that begins to grow darker and larger as you continue through the book.

The ending seems a little weak by western standards. But if you carefully read through the book you can also connect the dots and see the larger picture.

This is what makes The Hole by Hye-Young Pyung so frightening. You are overwhelmingly impotent in trying to divert the train wreck waiting to happen. All you can do is watch it happen in slow-motion in the same way Ohgi is stuck in his bed motionless and speechless.

(Want a great horror book? Check out The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong here!)

As the video below describes, the outward appearances of people and their inner thoughts can be devastatingly different (I am here referring to Ohgi’s mother-in-law; I know the book’s location is in Korea).

Emotions stuck within people’s hearts and minds cannot always be expressed openly outward. But like a sponge full of water, if you continue to repress emotions they will seep out through your actions and micro-expressions.

You need to see what’s written between the lines to see how deeply involved the mother-in-law is in destroying Ohgi’s remaining life. In any case, you will always be able to live in and feel the stranglehold of Ohgi’s constant despair and hopelessness in attempting to escape from his impotent life.

 

Summary:

I loved reading The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun (translated by Sora Kim-Russell).

I was hooked on that feeling of hopelessness and despair in attempting to wake up from a nightmare that endlessly continues day-to-day. This book is one that consists of an entirely new world away from the typical horror or thriller full of bullets and murderers.

In fact, this book is for one who loves psychological spins, rattles, and turns.

(Have you read the award-winning novel Pachinko by Min Jin Lee yet? Check it out now!)

This book is for also one who loves the psychological roller coaster flying up and down. You will attempt to get off the ride screaming and crying but loving every second, yelling at the top of your lungs “let’s do that again!” once it ends.

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun discusses the new life of someone who wakes up disabled, but this is not a triumph story. This is a sickening journey of someone trapped not just physically, but also mentally within their own life mistakes and failures.

 


Strap yourself in for the ride and don’t forget: there are no stop buttons in this type of psychological thriller.

 

My Rating: 4/5

Find all details about The Hole (written by Hye-Young Pyun and translated by Sora Kim-Russell) on Goodreads and Amazon.

Peace!
A.J. McMahon
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(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – #BookReview

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Series: The Broken Earth #1
Published by Orbit on September 4, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 498
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin The Broken Earth Series #1

Buy ‘The Fifth Season’ by N.K. Jemisin from Amazon now!

Synopsis of The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Series):

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter.

Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance.

And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land.

Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

 

First Sentence:

“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

 

My Opinion of The Fifth Season:

It was a really interesting read!

This was such a popular book. It won the Hugo award in 2016, and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

Not to mention the other two books in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series also won the Hugo award for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

This book was huge so I needed to get in and start reading it.

“I’m taking her to the Fulcrum. There she will be trained to use curse. Her sacrifice, too, will make the world better.” The Fifth Season p.32

Where do I start? The book was great.

(Love dystopian novels? Find out other great dystopian novels here!)

I really loved everything about the book – except the ending which seemed to suggest that I need to read the next two books. Not that I’m complaining! haha

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series starts off with this book and it’s a fantastic start.

The world that N.K. Jemisin builds in The Fifth Season is really detailed and authentic. We don’t get all the details of the world, but I assume she’s keeping it all for the next two novels.

“That she is a slave, that all roggas are slaves, that the security and sense of self-worth the Fulcrum offers is wrapped in the chain of her right to live, and even the right to control her own body.” The Fifth Season p.348

Talking about this novel though, we can see a lot of inclusion for minorities and LGBTQ+ characters as well as themes.

They are not just stereotypes but wholly taking part in the novel and feel like real people you can meet on the street.

It really is great that we can have a more inclusive science fiction community, especially since N.K. Jemisin won triple Hugo Awards for her recent novels.

 

N.K. Jemisin’s Use of Perspective

One of the most interesting and potent eye-catching elements of The Fifth Season is N.K. Jemisin’s use of perspective throughout the novel.

Some chapters use second person when describing what Essun does, i.e. “you did this” “you did that”.

Other chapters use third person when describing Damaya and Syenite’s experiences.

(Haven’t read The Gapcai Effect yet? Check out the details of this science fiction book here!)

Also, ever-present is a sort of third person omnipresent narrator who presses their own opinion and point of view on everything that is happening.

“You are she. She is you. You are Essun. Remember? The woman whose son is dead.” The Fifth Season p.15

These three different narratives (for Essun, Damaya, and Syenite) move through different points of time.

Also, these different narratives gradually give away details of the world and begin to build up the tension underneath the surface of the novel.

In the first chapter, Essun’s child is dead and she needs to chase down her husband who took off with her daughter.

Damaya is a young girl just discovered to be an orogene (those people who can control energy from the ground and temperature) by her parents. She hides in the roof of a barn but is taken Schaffa (a guardian, those who attempt to train and control orogenes).

Syenite is an orogene who is at the fulcrum (a place run by guardians and where orogenes are trained to learn to control their powers).

“And Syen could do it in her sleep. A two-ringer could do this. A grit could do it – though, admittedly, not without substantial collateral damage.” The Fifth Season p.61

In the end, these three narratives weave and wind together and finish in a masterpiece where your only want is to reread the entire novel to catch everything you didn’t catch the first time.

The Fifth Season would have seriously taken a lot of effort just to conceive and write down.

There are great ideas out there, but N.K. Jemisin’s put her words down on paper and just makes The Fifth Season into something quite beautiful.


Sometimes the narrator forces their ideas into your head, but it’s no problem. It’s good to get different perspectives once in a while.

I really love what N.K. Jemisin did with her book and highly suggest you read it straight away! You certainly get hooked and want to read all the books in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series.

 

Summary:

I highly suggest you read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin!

There’s so much in the book that I would love to scream about, but I don’t wanna give away too many spoilers.

Most importantly, it really is an amazing and fantastic book that you should have read already. If not, now’s your chance! Go and get it today!

 

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about The Fifth Season (The first book in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series) on Goodreads and Amazon.

Peace!
A.J. McMahon
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(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

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The Good Son Book Review – #YouJeongJeong

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The Good Son (종의 기원) by You Jeong Jeong
Published by Hachette Australia on June 5, 2018
Genres: Korean Books, Thriller Books
Pages: 309
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

The Good Son Book Review - You Jeong Jeong

Buy ‘The Good Son’ by You Jeong Jeong from Amazon now!

Synopsis of The Good Son:

In The Good Son, The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed in this breathless, chilling psychological thriller by the bestselling novelist known as “Korea’s Stephen King”. You Jeong Jeong is the master of creating thriller novels in Korea.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?

Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.

 

First Sentence:

“The smell of blood woke me.
It was intense, as though my whole body were inhaling it.”

 

My Opinion of The Good Son:

This was a fantastic book!

It was so refreshing for such a great thriller to come out of South Korea!
I seriously loved it to pieces. I love all of You Jeong Jeong’s books!

This is her first translated work, but she has already written a lot of thrillers in Korean as well! They have all been best-sellers.

In The Good Son the start seems a bit slow where there is no change of scene, but I mean you gotta think of what is happening in the beginning.

There’s a dead body with blood everywhere in the house.
The so-called ‘good son’ (Yu-Jin, who is also the narrator) has to recollect what he did the night before and here’s where the story begins.

“Bloody drips and footprints were smeared all over the silvery marble floor. They started by the door, crossed the room and stopped at the front of the bed.” The Good Son p.9

This story is retold by an unreliable narrator (Yu-jin himself), but at the beginning you believe what the feelings and thoughts he describes.

But as the story goes along, you find out more and more about Yu-jin’s past and his relationships with his family. In particular, his relationship with his mum and his aunt.

(Check out other thrillers by Korean authors here!)

Yu-jin’s aunt is a doctor and begins to call and hunt down towards the house to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his mother. So too does Hae-jin (Yujin’s adopted brother).

As the tension reaches the sky, the dirty secrets hidden inside Yu-jin’s mind begins to unravel one by one.

“The bus halted and blood began to course through the vessels in my ears. Someone must be getting off, otherwise it wouldn’t have stopped. I felt a chill when I saw a figure standing by the door in the bright bus.” The Good Son p.155.

The scene with his real brother and his father is retold twice but at each retelling you really do begin to see the true nature of Yu-jin and the drug schedule that he is put on by his aunt.

This complex web of not only relationships but also the dark pits within Yu-jin’s mind is what pulls us deeper and deeper in the story.

Each stage will make you continue screaming “NO! It can’t be!” or “OMG! What just happened??” There’s nothing else to be said about it.

 

You Jeong Jeong’s Unreliable Narrator:

We hear nothing from Yujin (the narrator)’s mother directly (well she is dead), so are unable to hear a second perspective about Yu-jin and his true personality. We are stuck in Yu-jin’s own foggy mind filled with drugs and blanks from seizures.

So too from Yu-jin’s aunt.

Is Yu-jin’s aunt the devil that Yu-jin makes her out to be? Or is she trying to save Yu-jin from himself?

Was Yu-jin’s mother always on his side? Or was she as evil as Yu-jin’s aunt in attempting to contain Yu-jin’s desires?

“An unexpected name was on the screen: Hye-won. Why was Auntie calling so early today? It rang half a dozen times. Then the cordless began to ring.” The Good Son p.30.

These kind of questions really make you think.

How well do we know our family? How well do we know our own memories?

(Love meta-narratives that drive you insane? Check out The Impossible Fairy tale by Han Yujoo here!)

So often there are experiments done which shows us how untrustworthy our memories really are.

Did you see the dancing chicken in the video while attempting to count how many times the people spun around 180 degrees? Did you really remember who mugged you in the middle of the night? Can you really choose the right criminal in a lineup at the police station 10 or more years later?

We have no idea about any of this – our memories truly are never real and never perfectly align with reality. And this is exactly what You Jeong Jeong exploits in her novel.


We trust and believe Yu-jin in the beginning. He is the only source we have to go with.
But as the novel moves along, there are some incredible reveals.

The ending too will absolutely shock you in how easy some people can slip down to the darkest of paths.

Who is ‘The Good Son’? Is he just a product of our drugged up society? Or is he the deepest parts of what is in our psyches?

I highly suggest you to read The Good Son and decide for yourself.
You won’t regret it!

 

Summary:

A fantastic read!

You really gotta try it and see how well you are thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to just sit and listen! I really loved The Good Son and highly recommend it for all lovers of thrillers, horror, mystery and blood haha.

The Good Son also forces you to question the usage of drugs in our society in treating illness as well as our relationship with people we think we know.

You should get it today and get reading straight away!

 

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about You Jeong Jeong’s The Good Son on Goodreads and Amazon.

Peace!
A.J. McMahon
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(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

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Twitter: @AndyReadsKorea1
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The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo – #BookReview

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The Impossible Fairytale (불가능한 동화) by Han Yujoo
Published by Graywolf Press on March 7, 2017
Genres: Korean Books
Pages: 192
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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five-stars

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Korean books)

Buy The Impossible Fairytale from Amazon now!

Synopsis of The Impossible Fairytale:

The Impossible Fairytale tells the story of the nameless ‘Child’, who struggles to make a mark on the world, and her classmate Mia, whose spoiled life is everything the Child’s is not.

At school, adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by soul-crushing hierarchies and an underlying menace. Then, one day after hours, the Child sneaks into the classroom to add ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks, setting in motion a series of cataclysmic events.

First Sentence:

“Dog.
See the Dog.
See the dog drifting by.”

My Opinion of The Impossible Fairytale:

It was incredible!

The fantastic literary experiment that Han Yujoo did with The Impossible Fairytale was a wonderful trip down a scary and exciting forest path for me. Han Yujoo (and her translator Janet Hong) has a wonderful way of words.

Some parts of the story are a bit out there, but you can easily skip them.
The gems however are when you get to the really scary meta-literary passages full of confusing and enticing power.

The Child, a small girl, seems to be a ghost in her own classroom but decides to enter her classroom in the dark and change the words in her classmates’ workbooks. The next day the teacher sees this changes and this sets the stage for the deepening trouble to happen.

“It hurts. Friction spreads through her whole body. But she doesn’t have the luxury of feeling pain. Blood oozes from her chin.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.61

The Child and Mia are both set down a scary tunnel of exciting and unnerving consequences. But we too are brought into a sort of dream-like world where there is murder and betrayal.

The meta-literary parts of the The Impossible Fairytale were entirely like Alice in Wonderland, but far worse. Whereas Alice in Wonderland can be easily read by children, The Impossible Fairytale has some actions and themes that would be best for adults.

But I think the main point of this novel is the question “what is the consequences of writing a novel where you have your characters commit such an awful thing like murder?”

Han Yujoo (the author) needs to comes to grip with what her character has become and what she herself forced her to do by writing the novel. Is the character responsible for her actions? Or is it the author’s responsibility?

“When I look up from the attendance sheet and survey the lecture hall, I spot an unfamiliar face. She wasn’t here the first day of class. Her name isn’t even on the attendance sheet.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.156

By creating art through writing, the author creates another world where there is no independence in actions but instead a force of the hand. In this case, the Child comes out of the novel in a sort of strange dream like state where the reader as well as Han Yujoo needs to come to grips with what the story has become.

The Impossible Fairytale is like a slippery slope where the reader drops down into a rabbit hole full of impossible but exciting events. It made my hair twitch and my insides gurgle. This is a book which you can’t read anywhere else. The full crushing experience of Korean classroom culture and Korean home life as seen in Our Twisted Hero by Mun-Yol Yi comes to the forefront.

If you love Alice in Wonderland on acid, then this is for you.
It is the ultimate road trip down a dream world of impossibility and slippery images of pain and hate.


Summary:

The Impossible Fairytale is really an experiment in writing, but because of that is just another experience altogether. You really just to keep reading and immerse yourself in the emotional song of the Han Yujoo’s book.

Some parts can be skipped, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss out the baby with the water.

If you like trance-like states and amazing detail in disturbing classroom life, along with meta-literal thrills, you really need to get this book. It’s something you just need to do.

I would highly recommend The Impossible Fairytale to anyone who is open to out-of-body experiences and to push the limits of their comfort zone.

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about The Impossible Fairytale on GoodReads and Amazon.

Peace!
A.J. McMahon
.
.
.
(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @AndyReadsKorea1
Instagram: AndyReadsKorea
Pinterest: FlyIntoBooks
GoodReads: A.J. McMahon
Google+: A.J. McMahon

 

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