Friday, July 31, 2015

Another review of Sad Peninsula

So this morning the Google Alert gods alerted me to a new review of Sad Peninsula posted on a blog called cnidariabloom. In this lengthy, thorough piece, the blogger says a number of warm and lovely things about Eun-young's thread of the novel, and she also includes a handy bullet list of historical data to help her readers with the context of comfort women and what they went through during World War Two and the decades after, as explored in the book. Here's a sample of what she has to say:

I loved Eun-young’s storyline. She is a strong, brave, and emotional character that you can easily connect with. She went to the meeting to help her family. I love that even though half of the book is Eunyoung’s time with the Japanese, the details rely less on sex and more on her emotions, what she thought about, day-to-day events, her relationship with her close friend (whom she calls 언니). It was less about the actual activity and more about the savagery of it all, the brutal treatment, the dehumanization. The focus is entirely on the women and their perspectives. The book begins with Eun-young cackling at the suffering of her abusers because of the atomic bomb. It continues with her life after the war, the struggles with reoccurring illness, her relationships with her husband and family, the whispers about not having children.
The reviewer has less affection for Michael's section of the story. She raises the very valid question of why nobody calls him on the way he views Jin at different points in the story (the answer, for what it's worth, is that other characters are too preoccupied with their own lives/issues to do so, and nor is it the author's job to interject with this kind of editorializing in fiction), and the reviewer doesn't feel Michael suffered enough of a comeuppance by the end of the book. Here's a sample of what she has to say:

However, I disliked the character Michael. He judged the American and Canadian white men for hounding after Korean women, for exploiting Korea, for never really getting into ~the real Korea~ even though he’s really no better. I hate that no one ever really calls him out on it. He’s an average looking, pretentious white guy who ruined his career over being dumped and yet girls like him and he spends his time with assholes. (His physical description is identical to the author, why.) His Korean girlfriend leaves him, and even though he knows about the former comfort woman in the family (who turns out to be Eun-young), the suffering of Korea under foreigners, he sees himself as different somehow.
But the reviewer ends on a positive note, giving the book 4 out of 5 stars and mentioning how much she appreciated a non-Europe perspective on the Second World War, which is always great to hear. Anyway, see the full review here.

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