Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2006.
Link to online store *
Judith Lee, an entitled descendant of the Korean royal family, has grown quite accustomed to the privileges of the aristocracy. When her parents cut off her finances upon graduation from Yale, Jude learns that her fancy upbringing has left her unprepared to deal with her monstrous debts. That is, until she is introduced to Madame Tartakov, a charismatic Russian émigré who has the solution to Jude’s financial woes: two years with Tartakov’s like-minded high-society girls as one of Manhattan’s most coveted courtesans. But Jude’s moral fiber is tested when she discovers that not only is she falling in love outside her clientele, but an illegitimate relative is harboring a grotesque secret, and something catastrophic is hidden in the family archives.
There are many novels which offer a cross-cultural view of the Korean diaspora experience in America. Most of them tend to focus on the lower end of the social scale: the dry cleaners, the grocers. This one is at the opposite end of the scale. Whether the observations are true or not I cannot tell, but some of them feel right; and it sure is a fun read.
* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or Bookshop.org for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to Bookshop.org and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.