Reviews tagging Sexual content

Love in the Big City, by Sang Young Park

9 reviews

claudiamacpherson's review against another edition

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.5


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rhysecakes's review against another edition

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challenging emotional informative reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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thewordsdevourer's review against another edition

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emotional funny reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.0

an understatedly melancholic yet adventurous book abt love, everyday struggles, and identity, love in the big city has surprising depth and emotional resonance, and is one that touches me deeply.

my caveats w/ the novel are its timeline and structure which are confusing at times, and the lack of continuity in characters and points of conflict between all the parts. for the latter, young's strained relationship w/ his mom is an example, as well as jaehee, who for such large a presence she has in young's life initially, basically disappears like 1/4 of the way.

aside from the aforementioned, however, i enjoy all other aspects of the novel. this book is funny and can be endearingly sweet, while also being scarily realistic in its depictions of struggles for one's dream, career, and everyday life. the bangkok setting later in the book's also delightfully surprising, and it's great seeing places from my own life feature quite prominently in a book i rly like.

the main character young has me endlessly rooting for him as he grapples w/ love and life, made doubly more complicated by his queer identity, and w/ reveals that shed more light on him in every part. there are no stereotypes and caricatures here, instead park delves into issues rarely touched upon - a minority w/in a minority - w/ young's HIV+ status and the normality yet ramifications of it, hampering young's life in frustrating ways.

what touches me most is perhaps young's relationship w/ gyu-ho, filled w/ both drama and mundanity that's multifaceted and refreshingly non-toxic. the naksan park scene is one that will stay w/ me, brimming w/ empathy and love. and although the ending is quite melacholic, i like the ambiguity of it. this book squeezes and fills my heart, and i sincerely hope more of park's works will be translated in the future, bc i for one cant wait to read them.

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rieviolet's review against another edition

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emotional funny reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

I was very much impressed by the first and second sections ("Jaehee" and "A Bite of Rockfish, Taste the Universe"). I found that the author did really well in exploring the main character's thoughts and feelings and translating them onto the page. So many episodes (especially those that had to do with prejudice and discrimination, and with his relationship with his mother) affected me deeply and broke my heart. 

I didn't like as much the third and fourth sections ("Love in the Big City" and "Late Rainy Season Vacation"). I think those parts just resonated less with me and I wasn't as much captured by the narrative (which sometimes jumped a little confusingly between time lines) and by its style. 
The ending felt a little bit abrupt, I wasn't expecting nor I actually wanted a perfect resolution (I think it would have clashed too much with the overall tone of the novel and the narrative line), I just would've liked it to finish at a different point, in a slightly different way.
Also, I really liked the main character's sense of humour, his funny and a bit dry voice made for a very engaging narrative but I think that this wittiness was more evident in the first section and then became a bit more sparse in the following ones. 

All in all, this was a really good book and I'm very glad I've got to read about the experience of queerness in South Korea. 

I have to briefly mention the "Acknowledgements" section because reading the author's own words made me really emotional. I especially loved and was moved by the very last paragraphs.

When I write - or when I'm going about my day - I sometimes feel as vague and uncertain as if I'm all alone wandering through a cloud of dust, but sometimes I feel a warmth, like my hands have touched something. I want to call that something love. I know all too well how this emotion called love, how the word itself, can easily crumble into nothing, but all I can do is tightly grip this tiny bit of warmth and embrace it with all my might. Just so I can live on as myself. Just so I can live this life as myself and myself alone.

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emilyacres's review against another edition

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emotional funny hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75


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internationalreads's review

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dark emotional funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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woolgatherer's review against another edition

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emotional funny reflective medium-paced

4.5

This was such a joy to read, despite it being bittersweet. It’s such a fresh perspective on South Korean society today that puts queerness front and center, but still covers struggles that are incredibly relatable for many people in their twenties and thirties. It’s the struggle to find lasting relationships (romantic or otherwise), having questionable relationships (romantic or otherwise), the general dread of work and its culture, and, really, the frustrations of life not going the way you thought/hoped it would but having to live with that. However, particularly for Seoulites, this book also expressed the joys of living in such a vibrant city and finding your community.

I laughed a lot while reading this book, but I also sympathized with the loneliness that the protagonist, Young, felt, especially as a gay man in a homophobic society. You’re never given a fully satisfying feeling in this book, which may frustrate some, but I interpreted this as Park getting at the fact that life can be largely disappointing. But he certainly highlights moments of joy that are always peppered throughout one’s life.

Hur also did a phenomenal job with translating and really captured Young’s spirit well, which I imagine was a challenge. I also admit that I laughed a little every time Hur included when they were speaking (in)formal Korean, but I completely understand the reasoning behind this, as it really sets the tone of what the relationship dynamic is like. In addition, I thought Hur did a really great job subtly explaining some of the cultural norms without it taking away from the story (e.g., the importance of age difference).

More broadly, I hope we see more translations of Korean literature, because there are so many unique voices like Park’s that should be heard. 

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christineazopf's review

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emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0


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sebby_reads's review against another edition

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emotional lighthearted reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

“Rain still falls during the late rainy season, as do tears even when it’s too late.”

Love in the Big City is narrated by ‘Young’, an aspiring writer living in Seoul, South Korea. It is a poignant novel depicting current day’s love life of a queer person—vibrant as well as drab and grey at times. This is a debut novel by the novelist Sang Young Park and translated into English by Anton Hur.
The writer tells the protagonist’s life story in four parts. In part 1, Young narrated his youth and his best friend, Jaehee. Spent their early adulthood fearlessly with booze and hookups. Together, they took care of each other and regardless of the situations they were in, she was his rock and he hers. Part 2 is about Young’s relationship with his lover 12 years older than him. Young was “out” within his circle of friends whereas his partner was closeted. Due to several differences, their love journey was quite bumpy. Despite all the red flags that keep popping here and there, Young loved him painfully. The writer also introduced Young’s thorny relationship with his ailing mother whom he had to take care of because of her recurrent cancer. The title of part 3 is eponymous and it befittingly tells how Young met Gyu-ho, the love of his life. Their relationship looked enchanting but it was seen through rose-colored glasses. Young being HIV positive put some drawbacks in their relationship, not just in sex, but also in career opportunities. In final part, Young talked about his encounter with an older man he met on Tinder and his continuous yearning for Gyu-ho. He keeps revisiting his memories with Gyu-ho as he continues his life.
This is one of the four books I purchased from @tiltedaxispress last year and first one to read. To be frank, we are familiar with such curves in a love story. You had a dear friend very close to you in your youth and one day you two grew apart. You fell in love with someone so hard and the breakup with that person turned you into a bitter and unbothered person. You didn’t take love seriously cause you’d been hurt until someone walked into your life and thawed your cold heart. Then for some unfathomable reasons, it didn’t work for you two. You recollect the memories of your loved one as your life goes on. We’ve read in books and seen in films or even experienced on our own.
Why is this different then? The writer sets a brilliant tone that portray the love life by today’s youths. It also highlight Asian queer community and how it is different from what we usually see or read in western queer literature. The ideological differences and varying social acceptance factors amongst different generations as well as cultures can be seen in this book. The narrative is crisp and emphatic though at some points, it is quite sentimentalized. The eloquent translation by Anton Hur provides an articulate account of the experiences and emotions of the characters. Quick and enjoyable read actually.
Heart wrenching events that queer people have to endure—acceptance from friend and family, struggles in workplace and for employment, and last but not least pain caused by the loved ones—are rendered immaculately. While same sex sexual activity is legal in South Korea, marriage or other forms of legal partnership hasn’t been granted recognition. Through various characters, Sang Young Park tells the sociopolitical conditions of queer community in today’s Seoul. Still orthodox within the society and discriminative by the laws, it is in fact an important story. Discrimination towards queer people, including the self imposed one due to conservatism, is an important and insidious issue. If it can’t be eradicated, will love in the big cities (and small cities, too) survive?

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