I have had terrible luck with lit-fic so far this year, so it’s nice that my streak is finally broken. This book was great. Depressing, but great. And I never would have picked it up on my own except that it qualified nicely for the novel in translation category (non-European) for the Read Harder Challenge, and it was short! And very well regarded. So thanks, Read Harder! Doing your job.
Kim Jiyoung is a young mother living in Korea. She quit her job in marketing to stay home and take care of her daughter, who is now a year old. As the novel opens, Kim Jiyoung has been acting strangely, seeming to channel the personalities of other women with eerie accuracy. Her husband is extremely disturbed by it. At this point, the novel backtracks to take us through Kim Jiyoung’s entire life, from birth until the present.
The book is written (translated, but I have to assume the style is equivalent in the original Korean) in sparse, simple prose. It tells us matter of factly how the course of her life has ended up with Kim Jiyoung where she’s at today, even when the things that have happened are rage inducing. The book is also interspersed with footnotes linking to evidence to support the numbers and statistics mentioned in the book, in regards to things like the number of women employed at various companies, the number of women in the workforce after giving birth, etc. As mentioned in other reviews, the ending is a doozy.
I find it super interesting that this book caused such a storm of opinions in its native country (and then again when the film adaptation was released). The book is notable even here where feminist books and literature have been, while not common, certainly not revolutionary. But that is apparently the cultural effect this little book has had on its author’s home country, an author who wrote it based off personal experience.
Definitely worth picking up.
Read Harder Challenge 2021: Read a non-European novel in translation.
CBR BINGO: Uncannon