This is a book that has been making its rounds for quite a while, and when I saw it on the library shelf, I was tempted and gave in.
It is a slim volume, and I thought I would be able to read it in a single sitting (even while I knew that it had some deep discussions in it). I was wrong in more ways than one. I struggled to read through it at the pace I normally do, and it was not the translator’s fault either. I have probably never said this before with a book that I actually liked, but it was a hard one to read.
Our lead protagonist is given a name that shows her as an encompassing figure of all the women she is set to represent. Any statistic that is mentioned during the narrative is backed up with the place or census that that information is from.
If you have not heard about it before, the story is about a Korean woman with a very common name from her time. We see her first as she is fading, although she is young. She seems to be suffering from an illness detaching herself from her reality. Then we swing back to her childhood and the years that separate the two parts of the narrative. She is not a character with decisive views or identity, but she is swept up in the current of her life and gets lost within it. It is painful to watch the way things evolve at every stage. It has a better impact (I feel) if one or more events described here are things that have ever happened to you.
The language is a little stilted at times, but I attributed it to the style of the storytelling. The ending was a little abrupt, but this is a book club read that can trigger many a debate.