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True to Her Own Belief,
This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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An interesting tale set in Korea in 1915 (and the next 30 years)whilst the country was occupied by Japan. It's written in the first person as though the writer had actually been there and she does manage to capture much of the hardships and cruelty imposed by the Japanese but also there is the cruelty of men to wives and daughters and their domination of women.
In these times it is difficult to imagine women allowing themselves to be brought up to care only for their fathers, brothers or husbands, imagining their needs and ensuring that they are fulfilled in every way. But the `writer' is starting to be headstrong and aware of what she wants in the world. She rebels quietly when her father wishes her to marry and her mother persuades her aunt to arrange for the writer to serve as a companion to the young princess. When the king is assassinated, hundreds of years of Korean culture dies. And the writer has to return home.
Intertwined with the narrative about the daughter is the relationship of missionaries with the Korean people and how some become Christians whilst others also worship their old gods as well as Christ.
The poverty and the cruelty of the Japanese army is well illustrated. How people coped is difficult to imagine but throughout it all, the `writer' carries the reader along as she remains true to her desire to be her own persons whilst suffering deprivation and imprisonment..
I enjoyed the story but felt it needed pruning and the editor could have encouraged Eugenia Kim to be more judicious in her writing. It reminded me of The Red Princess by Margaret Forster but the writing was not as tight. There seems to be a plethora of books nowadays telling the history of different countries through the eyes of people living through the different events. Some of these books are well worth reading and this book is of interest to those keen to learn more about that part of the world.
And the relevance of the title, well in Korea calligraphers were highly thought of, especially those who worked for the King and the `writer's' father thought he would remain an aristocrat but once the King was dead, his work was of little value and the Japanese were adamant that the Koreans would be `dragged' into the modern world.
All in all a good book and it will be interesting to see what the author's next venture will be.