May 1, 2014
I'll Be Right There, by Kyung-Sook Shin
I have very mixed feelings about this South Korean novel. Parts of it are really beautiful, and I like how the story seeks to individualize a time of violent unrest in South Korea, but then parts of the novel are cliched and sophomoric. Thin beams of light suddenly shine upon upturned faces right at the moment of epiphany, that sort of thing. Most of this is at the beginning of the book, and it does get better as the novel turns its focus to Seoul in the 1980s. Since I've never read this author before, nor indeed anything written by a South Korean, I don't know whether the silly bits are characteristic of the author's writing, the translator's style, or South Korean writing in general. As for the story, it's very interesting, though I would have liked to see more about the relationship between Professor Yoon, a poetry scholar, and his students. There is constant reference to the closeness of this relationship, but little explanation as to why or how that situation played out. It's an interesting read, and enlightening about a period of history I know nothing about, I just wish the writing were a little deeper in some parts.