What makes a good book? There are as many answers to this question as there are readers. And this reader's requirements weren't met by Hyeonseo Lee's The Girl With Seven Names.
That's not to say it isn't a good story. It's an autobiography/memoir of a North Korean woman who defected "by mistake" aged 17. She lived and worked as an illegal immigrant in China for several years before making her way to South Korea, where she was automatically entitled to citizenship. Then she executed a plan to help her mother and brother to defect and join her. They now all live happily ever with her American husband in the USA.
Most of what I didn't like was the writing style. The first section contains a description of childhood events as she "was told about them", perhaps by her mother. The language is stilted and cliched, as one might expect from an inexperienced writer. Most annoying was the overuse of anticipation: many chapters ended with a phrase, sometimes a paragraph, that served as a harbinger of some terrible event. This device, perhaps intended to keep us reading merely reduced the impact of future episode. By the third section, the writing style had improved somewhat.
Finally, the book is overly trite. In the prologue the author says she came to understand "that we can do without almost anything - our home, even our country. But we will never do without other people, and we will never do without family." Does Hyeonseo Lee really believe this? By the end of the book what comes across is that those who are seperated from family and birthplace when they are young are able build a life elsewhere. "Home" moves with you. It was clear that over time, distance and lack of contact, the writer was unable to see things from the same point of view as the family she left behind.
art (2) Art & music & misc reviews (11) Book reviews (195) bookclub (39) books (2) christmas (2) concerts (2) creative-writing (10) essays (3) events (1) exhibitions (3) fiction (150) France (1) humour (1) Italy (2) Japan (2) journeys (9) limericks (6) music (7) musings (3) My stories (3) My verse & poetry (14) non-fiction (38) photography (1) poetry (4) restaurants (2) Riviera (1) Russia (1) short-stories (3) South Africa (1) Sweden (1)