The Picture Bride – Lee Geum-yi

A gloomy Sunday morning needs some homemade waffles and this lovely read, PICTURE BRIDE by Korean writer LEE GEUM-YI, translated by An Seon Jae. 

A story about three women from rural Korea who travel to Hawaii in 1918 to marry complete strangers. They are picture brides, whose marriages have arranged based just on a photo. They’ve been told that their future husbands are young landowners in Hawaii. Unfortunately when they arrive, the women learn that they’ve been tricked by old photos and that the men are just workers on plantations. 

Willow is the main character, and she’s relieved to learn that her groom is at least still a young man. The grooms of her two friends, Honshu and Songhwa, are much older. But Willow’s husband, Taewan, is distant and cold at first, until she learns about his previous relationship. 

The three women continue their friendship throughout the years. And that’s really the crux of this story – friendship. Despite all that goes on, politics, death, abuse, these three women have one another. 

I enjoyed learning about these picture brides and what their lives in Hawaii was like. The struggles faced by the overseas Koreans during the Korean independence movement was quite interesting, as Willow’s husband Taewan is heavily involved in the movement. 

I did enjoy this book. The writing is straightforward and simple. But occasionally, I longed for a little bit more. More what exactly? I don’t know. Something that would make me feel more for the characters, maybe? 

I have to give this a solid 3.5 ⭐️ – a good read, with some slightly bland characters. But an eye opener in terms of the lives and struggles of these overseas Koreans during the independence moment.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Rain in August and a lightning storm to boot. Also we are in the middle of a heatwave. Isn’t 2020 crazy enough already?

But this strange weather on Sunday gave me the chance to sit down and think more about this interesting book by South Korean author Cho Nam-Joo, translated by Jamie Chang, and originally published in 2016

A story that begins with a 30-something-year-old “everywoman” who’s pressured to leave her job to care for her newborn. She begins to impersonate other women, both alive and dead. And her husband sends her to a psychiatrist.

The book focuses on the gender inequality experienced by Korean women – in their families, in schools, in the workplace, in society.

It’s told in a rather cold third-person voice and this may be a little difficult to get into, but it is a fascinating portrait of the life of this Korean everywoman, following all the sexism she faces, right from a very young age – when Kim Jiyoung is born, her mother even apologizes to her mother-in-law for not having had a boy instead!

It’s a short book but the 176 pages sure pack a punch.