Review: Pyun Hye-young – The Law of Lines

Life was much deeper than he could ever imagine. It was impossible to tell just how far you could sink1 Two apparent suicides in different parts of the country kick-start two separate story-lines which turn out to be interlinked. Se-oh is the daughter of one of the deceased – a man who had fallen into […]

Brief review: Kim Sagwa – b, Book, and Me

To answer the obvious question that you’re going to be asked when trying to order this item at your local bookstore, “b” and “Book” are the names of two characters in the novel. We’re not told about how b came by her name, but Book is so called because he spends all his time reading, primarily […]

Book review: Paek Nam Nyong – Friend

When faced with a translation of a book written by a North Korean, based on past experiences you might expect material that’s hostile to the regime. Texts that have been rendered into English tend to be either defector testimonies or an occasional collection of short stories or poems by a dissident writer that have apparently […]

Book review: Jeong You-jeong – Seven Years of Darkness

Jeong You-jeong: Seven Years of Darkness Translated by Kim Chi-young Penguin / Little, Brown 2020 Originally published as 7년의 밤, EunHaeng NaMu Publishing Co, Seoul 2011 It felt like a long wait. We’d seen the movie adaptation a few years ago (Choo Chang-min’s Seven Years of Night, which screened at the London Korean Film Festival […]

Mi-ae Seo: The Only Child

Seo Miae’s The Only Child is the latest thriller to come out of Korea, following on the heels of Jeong You-jeong’s Good Son and Kim Un-su’s The Plotters. Seo debuted in 1994 with the short story 30 Ways to Kill Your Husband and won the GrandPrize for Korean detective fiction with the Dolls Garden. She […]

Review: Kim Yideum – Blood Sisters

Kim Yideum: Blood Sisters Translated by Jiyoon Lee Deep Vellum, 2019, 202pp Originally published as 블러드 시스터즈 by Munhakdongne, 2011 I seem to be on a roll with translated fiction this year. Two disappointments (Marilyn and Me and Kim Jiyoung), but now seven that are highly recommendable. I picked this novel off the reading pile […]

Book review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Cho Nam-joo: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 Translated by Jamie Chang Scribner, 2020, 163pp Originally published as 82년생 김지영, Minumsa, 2016. Kim Jiyoung, as the blurb on the back cover of this translated novel tells us, is every woman. Her given name is unremarkable, familiar, and of course her family name is the most common in […]

Book review: Jeon Sungtae – Wolves

Jeon Sungtae: Wolves Translated by Sora Kim-Russell White Pine Press, 2017, 196pp Originally published as 늑대, Changbi Publishers, 2009 Jeon Sungtae’s Wolves takes us to another world – the world of Mongolia in the early years of this century, a decade after the adoption of capitalism. The country is modernising rapidly, but out on the […]

Review: Bae Suah — Untold Night and Day

Bae Suah: Untold Night and Day Translated by Deborah Smith Jonathan Cape 2020, 152pp Originally published as 알려지지 않은 밤과 하루, Jaeumgwa Moeum, 2013 Let me say up-front that I have never regarded myself as a Bae Suah fan. My first encounter with her – Highway with Green Apples – registers in my memory as […]

Book review: Marilyn and Me

Ji-min Lee: Marilyn and Me Translated by Chi-young Kim HarperCollins / 4th Estate 2019, 176pp Originally published as 나와마릴린, 2009 “Where did all the beautiful and hopeful young women go?” That was the thought that occurred to author Ji-Min Lee, looking back at the grim post-war years, and looking at a couple of photographs from […]

Brief book review: The Plotters

Kim Un-su: The Plotters Translated by Sora Kim-Russell Fourth Estate, 2019, 304 pp Originally published as 설계자들, Seoul 2010 I always find when embarking on a new book it pays to have neutral expectations. That way you won’t be disappointed. But sometimes it’s hard to filter out your own personal prejudices and the word of […]