Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun, translated by Janet Hong

Thank you so much to Jade over at Head of Zeus for having me on this tour! What a fabulous book, so refreshing and peculiar! I had to read it twice to really appreciate it – I cannot say I am familiar with Korean literature, but this has definitely piqued my interest!

Synopsis

In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.

Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.

Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021.

Review

What happened? 

This is the main question posed by Yeo-Sun in this very short, but ever so clever book. 

More specifically, what happened to the deceased Hae-on? Accident? Murder? What happened to the people she left behind after her death?

This novel is simply fascinating. A cross between genres, a hybrid beauty, where crime mystery meets psychological drama. Very witty.

The imagination is just as painful as reality. No, it’s more painful. After all, what you imagine has no limit or end.”

Be prepared to let yours run wild as you follow the different characters’ thoughts. You might answer this main question, you might not, you might think you have, but in any event, you will not stop thinking about it. 

Yeo-Sun throws clues at you, as much as she throws you off. Every chapter brings its share of questions and shattered beliefs. 

She delves into the psychology in the face of loss, and dissect how each protagonist filled the void left by Hae-on’s death. It pushes the reader to reflect on the impact of death on their life and behaviors, showing you very subtly how it can shape the future = different degrees of guilt escalating to different degrees of madness. Lines between right or wrong become blurry. 

Was Hae-on somehow punished for her breathtaking beauty? Her nonchalance?

A suspect fleeing to America shortly after… out of guilt? Or simple opportunity?

Why was Hae-on in Shin Jeongjun’s car? Why didn’t she come home that night?

What does Yun Taerim know? Did she see anything? She was so envious, jealous of Hae-on. When she died, she could shine again… but at what price? 

Was Han Manu a simple witness? Was he involved? Or was he then as unlucky as he seems to have been his whole life?

How far will Da-on go to keep her sister alive ? To come close to some truth? Having had no other choice but to assume responsibility for the household from childhood, she bears the guilt to the same level, if not higher, than her mother. How does one live through something like this? What does it take to stop “falling”?

Life has no special meaning. […] Life begins without reason and ends without reason.”

So many questions, not always straight answers. This novel will force you to analyse every little detail and find your own personal way through the story. Packed with a hell of a punch, thought-provoking, and eliciting a wide range of feelings and emotions, I can only recommend you pick this up, I am confident it isn’t like anything you’ve read before!

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Head of Zeus in Hardback and e-book.

About the Author – Kwon Yeo-Sun

Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language.

About the Translator – Janet Hong

Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award. Her recent translations include Ha Seong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers have been saying!

The Writer’s Cats by Muriel Barbery, illustrated by Maria Guitart

A very big thank you to Isabelle over at Gallic for gifting me this wonderful book! As you might have gathered I am a huge fan of Muriel’s, and this is simply a treat!

Synopsis

Like so many writers, Muriel Barbery is a lover of cats. Grey-furred and amber-eyed (matching her home décor), Barbery’s four Chartreux cats keep her company as she works from her house in the French countryside, entertaining her with their quirks and foibles, inspiring her with their beauty, and soothing her nerves.

But that’s not all. For Kirin, Ocha, Mizu and Petrus – named after the writer’s love of all things Japanese, and, in true French style, of good wine – are no ordinary felines. These intelligent creatures have taken it upon themselves to guide their owner’s writing – flicking aside sections of her manuscript with a disdainful tail, pointing an approving paw at others. And it’s time these put-upon literary consultants got the recognition they deserve.

With delicious wit and irony, the international bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog gives an insight into her writing life – and the paws behind the pen. Accompanied by delightful illustrations by Maria Guitart, The Writer’s Cats is the perfect gift for cat lovers and book lovers everywhere.

Thoughts

Exquisite!

In this ever so clever illustrated story, sneak a peak into Muriel’s intimacy and writing process.

Through an incredible amount of humility and poetry, she shares with the readers how Kirin, Ocha, Mizu and Petrus provide invaluable assistance to cure the symptomatic writer’s afflictions: restlessness, doubt, denial.

Every single one of us needs help sometimes, and what a beautiful way to admit it, doing so through paws and meows. 

She opens the doors to her home and her heart with much ingenuity, and Maria’s illustrations accompany it all so well; It is simply delightful!

It is out on 19 October so make sure to pre-order a copy! And if you haven’t read any work by Muriel Barbery yet, I can only try and persuade you to do so: The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a masterpiece!

–About the Author – Muriel Barbery–

Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of four previous novels, including the IMPAC-shortlisted multimillion-copy bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Published in France in 2006 and in the UK in 2008, the novel was translated in 44 countries, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, and was described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’. Muriel drew on her own experience of living in Kyoto, where she was a writer in residence at the Villa Kujoyama for two years. She has also lived in Amsterdam and Paris and now lives in the French countryside.

“A Single Rose” by Muriel Barbery – Blog Tour

I have to start this post by saying how grateful I am to Isabelle over at Gallic Books for having me on this tour, and for gifting me this wonderful book. 

I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog so much that I couldn’t resist this one! Huge Muriel fan here!! 

Having read it in French I can also only praise Alison Anderson for a fabulous translation. 

Synopsis

The temples and teahouses of Kyoto are the scene of a Frenchwoman’s emotional awakening in the stunning fifth novel by international bestseller Muriel Barbery.

Rose has turned 40, but has barely begun to live. When the Japanese father she never knew dies and she finds herself an orphan, she leaves France for Kyoto to hear the reading of his will.

In the days before Haru’s last wishes are revealed, his former assistant, Paul, takes Rose on a tour of the temples, gardens and eating places of this unfamiliar city. Initially a reluctant tourist and awkward guest in her late father’s home, Rose gradually comes to discover Haru’s legacy through the itinerary he set for her, finding gifts greater than she had ever imagined.

This stunning novel from international bestseller Muriel Barbery is a mesmerising story of second chances, of beauty born out of grief and roses grown from ashes.

Review

A single rose is every rose

This short beauty (only 140 pages!) is a philosophical prowess: it forces you to question and reflect on so many different aspects that it puts you in a state of transcendence…

I’m not going to lie the first time I read it I wasn’t sure, so I read it again, in a calm and solitary manner, far away from all possible distractions, and then, it simply hit me.

What a powerful and beautiful read! Utterly thought provoking, and pure poetry, Muriel’s style is, as always, stunning and I can’t praise her enough! 

So cleverly crafted, this book is a wonderful ode to Japan, with each chapter beginning by a Japanese tale, somehow matching Rose’s own journey in this unknown country.

Rose is such a grabbing character, enigmatic botanist, she has a very skewed and warped version of life and of herself. You dive into her psyche and the incredible journey she embarks on.  

She flies to Kyoto to hear the reading of her father’s, Haru, will. Little did she know that he’d asked his assistant, Paul, to take her round on a tour of the city, and that this tour will trigger a rift in her.

How many people ever come to know their father through the child he once was?

She never had a father in her life, but somehow there’s always been a link between them that she will get to discover. By following the path he wished for her through the temples, she gets to familiarise herself with his legacy, whilst freeing herself of the shackles of her existence.  

Full of compelling metaphors, allegories and other “figures de style“, this beautiful and touching story is bound to make you question your life and beyond… “If a person is not ready to suffer, they are not ready to live” that’s quite something to think about… 

Similarly to a flower, Rose will feel her corolla grow, expand, in the hope of anchoring some roots. As she goes from temple to temple, meet extraordinary people who knew her father, she manages to distance herself from this unhappiness that grabbed her one day and never left, from her mother’s melancholy and sorrow that clearly defined her, from the absence she’s always lived with. 

You have to die a first time in order to be truly born”.

Rose’s voyage pushes grief and mourning to the forefront of the mind. To discover who she is, she has to embrace what she has lost: grieving the loss of her mother, her grandmother, the death of her father, along with the missed opportunity of ever having a relationship with him, the loss of her childhood, of who she once was… acceptance is the key but it isn’t a painless task for a person who has never allowed themselves to feel.

From the food to people and places, the experience is far from anodyne. Muriel’s divine words will transport you to this foreign and spiritual land, through time, space and memory, unlocking feelings alongside Rose.

There is so much more that I could say but I do not want to spoil this lyrical wonder for you! The only way is to pick up a copy (why not directly there to support Gallic Books, it’s out on 23rd of September : https://belgraviabooks.com/product/a-single-rose) and experience it for yourself.

When I finished it the second time, it left me the opposite of speechless… in need of discoursing on, dissecting and analysing it!

So when you pick it up, please, please write to me to discuss it! I can’t wait to know what everyone else thinks!

I will simply leave you with what I might refer to as my favorite quote (but there are just so many to choose from that triggered something in me that I cannot be certain) “the mere fact of being alive means that all the risks have already been taken”.

With Love
AGJ

–About the Author – Muriel Barbery–

Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of four previous novels, including the IMPAC-shortlisted multimillion-copy bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Published in France in 2006 and in the UK in 2008, the novel was translated in 44 countries, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, and was described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’. Muriel drew on her own experience of living in Kyoto, where she was a writer in residence at the Villa Kujoyama for two years. She has also lived in Amsterdam and Paris and now lives in the French countryside.

Don’t forget to check what my fellow bloggers are saying!

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