A review by translatedgems
Violets, by Kyung-sook Shin

  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated



Violets is a novel about obsession, abandonment, and the constant struggle to build one's identity in a society that constantly puts women on the margin. 

San, the main character, grows up in the country.The abandonment of her father and a thwarted sexual awakening has marred her childhood. The glimpse of this less than idyllic childhood results in a fragile woman who grapples with life and her sexuality. In her early twenties, she moves to Seoul to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. Alas, her hopes are once more squashed, and she settles for a lesser job. At every turn, San's aspirations seem to come to a dead-end, and still, she persists. She tries to hold on to anything she can to the point where it becomes a compulsion she has no control over. 

Shin's writing style, as brilliantly translated by Anton Hur, is quite simple but full of images. 

At times San felt more like an abstract idea rather than a character which reminded me of Bartleby from Herman Melville's short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener". San just like him embodied the same sense of alienation. 

"Does this story seem unfamiliar or extraordinary?It shouldn’t. For countless generations women have suffered and wasted away in strange rooms just like this baby’s mother. Just as the flowers lighting up the courtyard begin to wilt, the father leaves on his motorcycle early one morning like always—except that this time he does not return for over nine years. And the singular sound of the motorcy-cle ceases to be heard in the village."

Happy publication day to Violets and thank you @feministpress for this eARC.