Review: This Burns My Heart

This Burns My HeartSamuel Park, This Burns My Heart

This novel, set in 1960s South Korea, tells the story of Soo-ja, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner who has never had to work for a living. She longs to become one of South Korea’s first female diplomats, but her family wants her to uphold tradition by making an advantageous marriage. When Soo-ja meets the handsome Min Lee, she’s convinced she’ll have the best of both worlds: She will be married to an attractive young man, and she’ll be able to move to Seoul and pursue her dreams. But when she marries Min, she learns that she is expected to stay in the house and be a servant for her new in-laws. As Soo-ja comes to terms with her new life, she remembers the young medical student who once urged her to marry him instead of Min, and she wonders how different her life could have been if she’d made a different choice.

I found this book very readable at the time, but the more I think about it, the fewer good things I can find to say about it. I just didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters…something about the tone of the novel kept me at a distance. The book was (as far as I know) originally written in English, but it feels like a translation, if that makes sense. The language was too simplistic, maybe? I also thought that the character portrayals were too black-and-white — Soo-ja’s in-laws are basically portrayed as monsters, while it seems like Soo-ja is supposed to be always right. Personally, I didn’t find her very sympathetic, so maybe that’s why the book didn’t work for me. I don’t mean to sound harsh; I don’t think this is a bad book, by any means. It just wasn’t the right book for me, and I don’t plan to seek out more by this author.

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