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The Orphan Master's Son Paperback – 14 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (14 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552778257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552778251
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"An addictive novel of daring ingenuity; a study of sacrifice and freedom in a citizen-eating dynasty; and a timely reminder that anonymous victims of oppression are also human beings who love. A brave and impressive book" (David Mitchell, author of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET)

"A flamboyantly grim epic of totalitarianism… this larger-than-life, two-fisted picaresque manages to be a page-turner... an ambitious book" (The Sunday Times)

"One of those books where you know you’ve found yourself in the hands of someone who can really tell a story, and is yet not naïve about the artificiality of stories. The conceit is fantastic: a narration partly told through the loud speakers of the North Korean regime." (Zadie Smith)

"Fast-paced and intriguing.. this complex, multi-voiced narrative will remind some readers of David Mitchell’s similarly inventive tale, Cloud Atlas… It is magnificent" (Financial Times)

"What we have here are the ingredients of an across-the-board smash hit: sympathetic characters, an exotic, unknowable setting and a plot that will carry you along more convincingly than any of the fictions used by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." (David Annand Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2013 - the ground-breaking story about a young man's passage through the prison camps and dictatorship of North Korea

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Johnson on 22 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic story that took me by surprise. It takes a good 200 pages before you really get the gist of what is happening but it feels great when it all fits into place. Also I think Adam Johnson deserves an enormous amount of praise for tackling this incredibly difficult, yet often ignored, problem that is N.Korea. American audiences no doubt hear a great deal about N.Korea but here in the UK we only hear about it when there is another missile test. It's incredibly disturbing to think a regime as backward as this has lasted so long. I was too young to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall, I'm optimistic though that I will live to see the end of the DMZ.

Bearing in mind this is fiction, the narrative still projects a powerful real life message - something I an unlikely to forget anytime in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 May 2013
Format: Paperback
I admit, if i had read about this book a year or two ago I probably wouldn't have been quite so intrigued by it. If there's any book that can be said to be topical and follow a resurgent trope, this is it. Not in any kind of exploitative way, needless to say. But through a series of unpleasant coincidences, this really should be the book of the moment, the one on everyone's lips. Not just for its topicality, but for it's quality also.

This is the story of a North Korean orphan boy, and his journey from the orphanage to the interrogation bunkers of his nation's Dear Leader. The structure is complex, and certainly not linear. The first couple of hundred pages tell of our orphaned young man's early adventures in his homeland, and the second tell of his fantastical reach into the echelons of the mad power structure of the country under the guise of one Commander Ga. The first section is [relatively] straightforward, the second is the more challenging, but once you get your head around what's going on, it is by some distance the more rewarding of the two sections (not that the first is not of high quality). It also becomes the most compulsively gripping, interesting, frightening, and dangerously strange.

This is a book about many things: identity and stories predominantly, however (characters lie, act, pretend, say what they expect the leaders want to hear, change names, change personalities, change husbands, change life-stories). The narrative message that's what is conveyed by narrative is true, whether or not it is the truth, is one of the overarching messages here. Certainly in terms of life in North Korea.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of the story is the humanity of some of the characters, the citizens of Korea.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are very few novels set in modern day North Korea - with good reason. The political regime is so secretive and alien that research must be a nightmare. It's very hard to gauge how accurate a representation Adam Johnson's book is of this but it seems to be at least plausible and generally believable. What he does so well is to move from the opening slightly smug "isn't the propaganda thing a bit funny in terms of what people there believe" to making the reader really care and understand how shocking the effects of this can be on the individual lives of the people there. There are scenes of horrific suffering but Johnson retains a light touch wherever he can - so the Dear Leader, Kim Jon iL, is presented at times as being "lonely" in a nice nod to You Tube clips.

Johnson's hero, Jun Do, grows up in an orphanage run by his father. However he presents a mixture of people from all levels of society - there are those who believe in the myth of the leader and the propaganda, those who know the truth and use it to their own advantage and those who know the truth and use it just to survive. The challenge for a fiction writer is of course that it relies on personal stories and in a political culture like North Korea the individuality is suppressed.

The setting is fascinating and original and that does much to offset some of the aspects that perhaps stretch belief a little. It's hard to believe that Jun Do's lack of commitment to the cause would allow him to hold some of the positions that he finds himself in for example, but interchanging roles seems to be part of the model and presumably the argument against this goes that the leadership don't even question that everyone buys in to the story and aren't just compliant through fear.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Chu on 2 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The North Korean setting was intriguing and one of the main reasons I picked up the book, having finished Escape From Camp 14 not too long ago (which is a must read if you have an interest in the country). While the author does a great job at re-creating what we suspect the country may be like, I found the book incredibly hard to get into. I almost put it down a few times but forced myself to get through the novel. The character development is shallow for the most part and it's really hard to care much about what happens to the various people in the novel. The writing is also clunky at times with details sometimes not flowing together properly. I'm quite surprised this won a Pulitzer. While there are moments when the novel engages you, there are not enough of these to really draw the reader in. Instead, it tends to plod along. It's not horrible by any means, but it doesn't quite live up to the hype either.
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