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Under Their Skin [Paperback]

Dinah Lee Kung , Dinah Lee Küng
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Feb 2006
One autumn, the serene marriage of a Swiss dermatologist to an English WHO leprosy expert is shattered by three intrusions on his Geneva practice: an American violinist marred by a birthmark; a tattooed Japanese gangster; and the doctor's old rival-in-love, now Manhattan's Botox King, Both dark satire and moving love story, this novel confirms the author's far-ranging talents.

Product details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Halban (27 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1870015967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1870015967
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,135,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dinah Lee Küng is the author of three comic novels, "A Visit From Voltaire", "Under Their Skin" and "Love and the Art of War", and also the trilogy, "The Handover Mysteries", set in Hong Kong during the transition years 1996-2002 and published under the name D. L. Kung.

Also available as a Kindle e-book is her three-act play, "Dear Mr Rogge," which won a commendation in the BBC World Service-British Council's international Playwriting Contest 2009.

Küng became a novelist after twenty years of reporting from Asia, (primarily China and Hong Kong) for newspapers and magazines, including the Economist, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune and National Public Radio.

"A Visit From Voltaire" was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction/Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction in 2004.

"Beneath the surface of a light-hearted comedy, Dinah Lee Küng addresses a wide range of serious questions-- how much energy and passion is put into any lasting literary work, how literary friendships are never free from jealousy, and what posterity and ideals really mean," says The London Student.

"Under Their Skin" is a touching love story set in the international community in Geneva. Shirley Curran, reviewer for the popular website "Geneva Lunch," writes:
"This novel follows various threads, sometimes with delicious humour (as, for example, Shino's tattoos are removed from his most private places) to great pathos as we get to know Mira. The threads are brilliantly woven together in a very moving finale. This novel is tremendous fun to read. There is an added pleasure in the familiar Genevan landscape that is evoked throughout the novel and the gentle humour at the expense of the Swiss."

"The Handover Mysteries" also garnered critical praise:
--Kung delivers a touching story enriched by its strong atmosphere--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
--It would be easy to assume that Hong Kong is populated solely by spies and incredibly rich people who made their fortunes off the backs of peasants. What distinguishes this book is a compelling sense of place. This is a Hong Kong readers don't come across very often and the author brings the city alive. It's an unusual debut-- The Chicago Tribune

Go to www.dinahleekung.com for more information.

Product Description

From the Publisher

The Geneva laser clinic of Dr. Roman Micheli enjoys the discreet imperturbability of a Swiss bank--no matter who the patient, Roman is the consummate professional. However, at night he reflects to his English wife Isabel, a fellow doctor, "They want me to change their lives while all I can treat is the surface." However, in a spiral of events set in motion by Roman’s high ethical standards and middle-aged vulnerability, his own life starts to unravel below its serene surface. A brilliant young American violinist strides out to the footlights of Victoria Hall stage and wraps the audience into her transcendant music, while Roman strains from his seat to diagnose the purple stain marring her cheek’s beauty. Hers is a life his laser could transform entirely—yet to his consternation, the musician refuses to be "made normal." Meanwhile, Isabel’s career dramas at the World Health Organisation distract her from Roman’s lonely frustrations. She is on her own cleansing mission, to eradicate leprosy from remaining endemic countries, including India where a family tragedy planted the seeds of her personal crusade generations before. Only her comically despondent colleague Carlos can share her frustrations with an global institution occupied with more modern plagues. Isabel’s obnoxious old boyfriend, now Manhattan’s "Botox King" turns up to taunt and threaten Roman’s scrupulous reputation with a string of commercial laser beauty clinics boosted by a less-than-honest insurance gate-keeper holding a grudge against Roman’s success. Like a colorful Greek chorus of images, Roman's Japanese patient seeking tattoo removal glimpses the doctor’s descent from medical Olympus to suffering humanity and in his own peculiar way, contributes to Roman’s Dantean journey from complacent resignation to longing, self-knowledge and redemption. The threads of good intentions, differing moral codes and comic misunderstandings intertwine into a moving and satirical look at what lies beneath of the surface of our everyday actions and their unexpected consequences.

About the Author

Dinah Lee Kung worked for twenty years as a journalist in the Far East for The Economist, BusinessWeek, International Herald Tribune and Washington Post. She now lives in a farmhouse outside Geneva with her husband - a veteran of the International Red Cross - and their children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant second novel from a writer to watch 16 Mar 2006
This novel contains one of the funniest passages I have read in months. A Japanese gangster, seeking to erase his identity, is having a tatoo removed from a sensitive part of his anatomy. The surgeon is hunched over his laser. The surgeon's assistant, a comely and proper young woman, is holding the affected member, and stretching the skin for treatment. The gangster upon whom this humiliating procedure is performed is imagining.... that he is at the dentist!
This is a brilliant effort that delivers exactly what it says on the tin: revelation. Also, some very fine writing. Dinah Lee Küng is from Detroit but I can tell from this novel that she is seduced by the sounds and rhythms of the French language. I would guess she has been reading a lot of french literature from the 'subnotes'. DLK produced a startlingly good debut novel in Visit from Voltaire, a delightful and sympathetic portrait of the old rogue returned to walk the earth. Her ambitions have grown considerably and here she offers us a study of several personalities, exposing the contrast between what the person who seems to be and the person within. This is a fascinating and difficult task and she does it through characters that are in their turn challenging, difficult and conflicted.
Like all good journalists Dinah Lee Kung knows the importance of a scoop and we are offered some insightful revelations not only into the internecine world of medicine but also of the bueaucratic and political turf wars fought within international organisations. She is bold in writing about sex, understanding that it is what the characters mean to one another that drives the tension. Ultimately, this is a gutsy novel and it confirms that this is a writer who can be read seriously.
A word of criticism (for the sake of balance): A bit dark in places, madam. But maybe that's to make up for being so rude in other bits.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everybody's Vulnerable Under Their Skin 21 Mar 2007
In my opinion, of three American expat women writing today--Küng, Lionel Shriver and Tracy Chevalier--Küng displays the most mature and varied voice. Probably because she was a foreign correspondent, she weaves together both East and West and gives outlooks masculine as well as feminine. She's obviously a writer who has spent a lot of time out of the house and out of the country. Most women can't write "men" but in addition to portraying an ambitious high-flying wife, Küng also catches every less-than-flattering male musing, probably because she spent so long as a reporter overseas eavesdropping on "the boys" at the bar, if not in the brothel. Her characters are four-dimensional--public life, private life, secret motivation and spiritual longing. I enjoyed the Japanese guy, watching the Westerners through his yakuza lens and getting it all wrong and right at the same time. Not incidentally, Küng's appreciation of the worlds of medicine and music is phenomenal. She has practically written the soundtrack for the movie.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iris-Murdoch-on-the-Rhône 25 Mar 2007
Rather unexpected! From "Wacky-Housewife-in-the-Jura" to "Iris-Murdoch-on-the-Rhône." Kung won over many with her original resurrection of an irrepressible Voltaire, and now I can recall there were hints of her mordant underside in that disarming and comic memoir/biography. But rather than deliver another sunny or sentimental sequel, she descends the provincial Swiss mountains to an international Geneva nestling in a wintry fog of hidden desires. Although there are fewer one-line jokes or frantic puns without the manic Voltaire rattling around, I enjoyed again her felicitous writing, not to mention some sly and subversive nuances to this setting.

Characters include: an Irish-American Catholic diplomat bullying his daughter into an abortion, an English WHO doctor so mired in curing the world's children she's too blinkered to have even one kid to save her tepid marriage, and a Japanese "untouchable" bagman turning his tattooed back on the yakuza loyalties which nurtured him only to reattach his gratitude to his Swiss doctor-- with mixed results. One by one, her characters play against the cliché expectations to show their true colours.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR GROWN-UPS who don't need a happy-happy ending, and aren't too squeamish to relish an irreverent look at tattooed genitalia, world leprosy bureaucracy, or marital tone-deafness. I hope this author will continue to avoid repeating herself--something of a gamble, I'd judge, so all credit for writing herself out of the village.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange love story 17 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was expecting more on leprosy from the earlier reviews I had read, but I gave this book a go and enjoyed reading it. It was a strange love story from different angles, but I enjoyed it.
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