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Archive for March, 2020

The story told in ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ by Cho Nam-Joo goes like this.

Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, she has been married for three years, she is a housewife and has a one-year old daughter. One day she starts behaving strangely. Soon she starts assuming the personalities of other people, and it appears that she is not playacting, but she really thinks she is those people. Her husband is worried. The story then takes us into the past to the time Kim Jiyoung was born, we get to know about her parents, about her life as a child, about her time in school and later university, how she grows up into a young woman, her time at work, about the sacrifices she has to make because she is a girl, the same kind of sacrifices her grandmother made, her mother made, and her elder sister made, and how events progress to the present. Are we able to find out what happened and why Kim Jiyoung behaves strangely? You have to read the book to find out.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ is an insightful depiction of contemporary Korean society and family, the challenges, the discrimination and the sexism that Korean women face everyday in a system which is geared against them, the sacrifices they make and how they are taken for granted, and how though it looks like things have changed for the better in recent years, some things never change. If we think about it, it is probably not just about Korean women, but it is really about women everywhere in the world. It is a heartbreaking and haunting book. Through the story, the author Cho Nam-Joo uses actual facts and statistics to critique Korean society and it is very insightful and eye-opening to read. Cho Nam-Joo’s prose is spare and matter-of-fact and it adds to the poignancy of the story.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ is a book to be read and pondered on, on where we are as a society and how far we still have to progress yet.

Have you read ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘? What do you think about it?

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I discovered ‘Please Look After Mother‘ by Kyung–Sook Shin recently and I loved the plot summary and decided to read it. This is my first proper Korean novel, so Yay! 😁

The story starts with one day, when mother goes missing. Her grown-up children start searching for her. As this is happening, we see the present and the past unfolding through four different perspectives. We get to know more about mother and her relationship with her children, her husband, and other people who were part of her life. The stories are narrated in different voices – one of them is in the second person, another is in the third person, another is in the first person. This is the first time I am reading an extended narration in the second person. It is intimate, it tries to get the reader involved in the story, almost makes the reader into a character, which is very fascinating. The main character in the story, the mother, is the archetypal, long-suffering universal mother, the woman who works hard and sacrifices everything for her family, the woman who is taken for granted by her family. It is a heartbreaking story.

I liked ‘Please Look After Mother‘ very much, though most of it was heartbreaking. It was almost like reading a novel by a twenty-first century Korean Thomas Hardy. I am happy that I read my first Korean novel. Kyung–Sook Shin seems to be one of the contemporary Korean greats and her book ‘The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness‘ also seems to be acclaimed. I hope to read that sometime.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.

“Do you know what happens to all the things we did together in the past? When I asked my daughter this, although it was you I wanted to ask, my daughter said, ‘It’s so strange to hear you say something like that, Mother,’ and asked, ‘Wouldn’t they have seeped into the present, not disappeared?’ What difficult words! Do you understand what that means? She says that all the things that have happened are actually in the present, that old things are all mixed in with current things, and current things mingle with future things, and future things are combined with old things; it’s just that we can’t feel them. Do you think that things happening now are linked to things from the past and things in the future, it’s just that we can’t feel them?”

Have you read ‘Please Look After Mother‘? What do you think about it?

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The Color of Heaven‘ is the third and final part of Kim Dong Hwa’s Colors trilogy.

This part continues the story of Ehwa and her mother as we follow the happenings in their lives. We also follow their love stories which follow different paths and move in different ways. There is yearning, longing, heartbreak, lots of mother-daughter conversations, allusions to images and metaphors from classical poetry, descriptions of flowers and nature and how they are metaphors to happenings in a person’s life according to Korean tradition and culture – all these and more are there in the book. There is one scene in the book that is different from the norm. Ehwa disappears one night from home and gets back the next morning. When her mother asks her where she was, Ehwa refuses to reply, but tells her mother that she would like to be punished. What happens after that for the next couple of pages in heartbreaking. I can’t tell you what happens though. You should read the book to find out. I really want to tell you how the book ended – happy or sad or open-ended – but it not for me to tell, it is for you to find out.

I loved ‘The Color of Heaven‘. It is a beautiful finale to this wonderful trilogy. I loved the whole trilogy – every part and every page. The blurb to the trilogy reads – “A sweeping trilogy of first love and second chances”. That is a perfect description of it. The whole story is lyrical, the artwork is brilliant, the depiction of traditional Korean culture is fascinating, the love stories are wonderful. But for me the best part of the book is the depiction of the relationship between Ehwa and mother. It is one of the most beautiful mother-daughter relationships that I have ever seen depicted in any book. Ehwa’s mother is one of the most beautiful mothers ever portrayed in fiction. She is one of my favourite characters ever. This trilogy is one of my favourite graphic novels, ever.

I am sharing a couple of scenes from the book. Pictures #1-2 form one scene and pictures #3-4 form a second scene.

Have you read ‘The Color of Heaven‘? What do you think about it?

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The Color of Water‘ is the second volume of Kim Dong Hwa’s Colors trilogy. The story continues from where it left off in ‘The Color of Earth‘. We follow the lives of Ehwa and her mother as little things keep happening in their everyday lives, interspersed with the occasional big thing. Ehwa keeps growing as a person and discovers new things about herself and the world. Her friend Bongsoon is her partner-in-crime in many of these adventures.

My favourite parts of the book are the ones in which Ehwa and her mother have long conversations. During these conversations, Ehwa asks questions to her mother and learns new things from her, sometimes they share things about their lives, and at other times they do things together. It is such a beautiful depiction of a mother-daughter relationship. Sometimes we forget that they are mother and daughter and we imagine that they are best friends, till Ehwa makes fun of her mother on something, and Ehwa’s mother responds, “Is that the way to talk to your mother?” That scene always makes me smile 😁

There are interesting depictions of traditional Korean culture in the book, some of it fascinating, and others that we find hard to accept if we read it with 21st century sensibilities. Many of the conversations in the story have allusions to images and metaphors from classical poetry, which are fascinating to read. ‘The Color of Water‘ ends in an interesting way, and I can’t wait to find to find out what happens to one of the characters in the third part.

I am sharing some of the pages from the book to give you a feel for its beauty. Pictures #1–3 form one scene.

Have you read ‘The Color of Water‘? What do you think about it?

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‘The Color of Earth’ by Kim Dong Hwa is the first volume of the trilogy, and is a manhwa – that is, the Korean version of the manga or the graphic novel.

The Color of Earth‘ is about a young widowed woman and her young daughter Ehwa. The story describes how young Ehwa experiences the beauty of the natural world as she grows up, while navigating the transformation that happens to her body, her emotions and her mind. The story is also about how Ehwa’s mother experiences loneliness and what happens when there is a possibility of discovering love again.

The book is beautiful, lyrical, poetic – if a graphic novel can be described as lyrical and poetic. The artwork is gorgeous, and as I am not an expert, I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. In some places, the artwork is simple and straightforward with clean lines. In other places, it looks like pointillism – drawing a picture just with points. In other places there are intricate line drawings. The nature scenes and the rain scenes are incredibly beautiful. The book can be read just for its artwork. The relationship between Ehwa and her mother is a central part of the book and it is beautifully depicted. It is almost like reading about the Korean Lorelai and Rory. Ehwa’s mother is one of the most beautiful characters ever depicted in any graphic novel. The story also depicts traditional korean culture very intricately. I loved that aspect of the book. The book also has a beautiful, poetic introduction by the author and an essay at the end describing the book’s themes, by Hwang Min-Ho.

I loved ‘The Color of Earth‘. It is such a beautiful start to the trilogy. I can’t wait to read the second part now.

I am sharing some of the pages from the book so that you can experience the beauty of its artwork. The first three pictures are continuous and depict one scene, and so do the next two.

Have you read ‘The Color of Earth‘? What do you think about it?

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