South Korean books and Japanese novellas: Sept Wrap Up

It’s October already, so here’s a round up of my September reads! As I’ve been doing my Autumn is for Asia challenge, everything I’ve read this month has been set in Asia and written by an Asian author. This month’s reads happened to be Japanese and South Korean books. I’m really enjoying exploring new cultures and stories through this challenge and would love to hear about any books that introduced you to new cultures or worlds! Leave me a comment with a recommendation 🙂

So what did I actually read? The majority of this month’s reads were South Korean books, but last month, it was mainly Japanese. I’ve also just started one set in China, which I’ll write about next month! (You can check my Goodreads profile if you’d like to see last month’s reads too!)

A panel filled with September reads/book wrap up, including The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang, I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim and If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura. In that order, the books are rated on with symbols, scoring "loved it", "meh it was okay" and "loved it!"

South Korean books

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

South Korean books: The front cover of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang, which features a painted forest with a small hen wandering throughWhen it comes to comparisons, this one is dubbed the Charlotte’s Web of South Korean books, and I can see why. It’s got that same power to suck you into the animals’ stories and get you emotionally invested – and exhausted! It’s quite a feat really, making a human reader relate to a hen, but Sun-Mi Hwang has somehow managed it.

The story follows Sprout, an egg-laying hen who can no longer lay eggs of her own. Too scrawny to eat, she’s no longer any good to the farmer and is cast out to die. However, Sprout is determined to hatch an egg and have a baby of her own before she dies. Along the way, she meets unlikely allies, experiences prejudice, fights for survival, and learns the power of love and sacrifice. It’s a short but sweet story about unconvential families of all shapes and sizes, with a bittersweet takeaway that makes you feel both empowered and a bit broken!

Add it to your Goodreads

I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim

South Korean books: The cover of I Have The Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim, which features a tree branch at the very top, with an orange moon beneath silhouetting a falling human above the city of Seoul at nightI have mixed feelings about this one. The narrator is a Dexter-like character who instead of killing those he thinks deserve death, he haunts lonely, struggling, and emotionally scarred people and suggests solace in suicide. On the surface, I thought this book would have the intriguing elements Dexter presents – is it right, is it wrong? Who deserves death? Shouldn’t we be the masters of our own end? However, I felt that all the book’s different elements, although vivid (sometimes a little too vivid!), weren’t quite embroidered together well enough to present one, single, impactful story.

Young-Ha Kim’s style, like a lot of South Korean books, is described as “dream-like and cinematic”, and I can definitely see why, though it was a little too dreamy for my liking. For me, I was left feeling a little unsatisfied at the end, as there are so many threads that don’t quite get woven firmly into the final tapestry.

It kind of reminded me of Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto in a strange way. On my journey through Asian literature, I’ve noticed a lot of it, in particular Japanese and South Korean books, have a focus on death, its impact on others, and a strange dream-like prose that to me, feels almost like watching a movie in slow motion. It’s hard to explain – it’s not a bad thing or a suggestion that the books feel slow, it’s just that the story feels like it’s caught in a bubble while the rest of the world in the book happens around it. It’s very different to Western literature.

Add it to your Goodreads

Japanese books

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

The cover of If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura, which is a plain cream colour with a painted black cat standing at the bottom beneath the book's title in gold and author name in blackThis little gem is the only one on my list that’s not a South Korean book! This one is instead set in Japan, and written by a Japanese author. I read The Travelling Cat Chronicles last month and really enjoyed it, so when I spotted a book with a very similar cover by a Japanese author, on the buy one get one half price stand, I had to snap it up!

Unlike The Travelling Cat Chronicles, this book is not told from the point of view of the cat, though cats are quite heavily featured throughout, as you may guess! The premise is that our protagonist has a week left to live, and the Devil appears to him, promising one extra day of life in exchange for making something disappear from the world. Sounds easy enough, but it is a deal with the Devil after all – you can’t just get rid of, say, dirt on shoes, or racism, or something like that. The Devil dictates and our protagonist is left wondering that makes life worth living, the value of relationships, hobbies, and pets, and ultimately, questioning what makes one life more important than another. It’s poignant, and left me sitting looking a bit broken on the train after I finished it!

Add it to your Goodreads

There seems to be a theme this month – books that make me question my own existence and get a bit sad! In a good way though, if that makes any sense!

What’s a book that changed the way you thought about things? Leave me a comment and let me know!

P.S. Want to get involved in Autumn is for Asia? Check out the link in the first paragraph for info via Instagram stories, or check the last paragraph of my last post if you’d prefer!

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11 Comments

  1. October 5, 2018 / 12:27 pm

    I’ve screenshotted your book recommendations for the Asian Autumn reading thing and I’m planning to go through most of them. I’m so excited!

    Ana

    PS Not sure if you remember me from my bookstagram days, Rhianna! If yes, hello again!

    • rhiannacampbell
      Author
      October 5, 2018 / 2:59 pm

      Omg, yay! I’m so excited that you’re joining in! I hope you enjoy it!

      And yes, of course I remember you Ana! I recognised your blog name as soon as it popped up!! How have you been?! 💕

      • October 8, 2018 / 10:49 am

        I’ve been good! A lot of thing’s happening so I’m trying to manage everything! Excited to be joining you in the blogging community!

        • rhiannacampbell
          Author
          October 8, 2018 / 9:02 pm

          I’m excited for you too! Lots of good things happening, I hope! 💕

  2. October 8, 2018 / 1:44 pm

    These are all interesting Rhianna!!! I need to read these

    • rhiannacampbell
      Author
      October 8, 2018 / 9:02 pm

      I’d recommend them all, in weird different ways! 💕

  3. Dilip Chauhan
    October 8, 2018 / 1:56 pm

    If Cats Disappeared from the World I would love to read this one!!

    • rhiannacampbell
      Author
      October 8, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      I think you’d enjoy it! It’s quite poignant!

  4. Ninisbooks
    October 8, 2018 / 9:47 pm

    I remember reading The Three Inch Golden Lotus a few years ago and that was one that really left an impression… Also, I want to read the Japanese book, If Cats Disappeared From The World!

    • rhiannacampbell
      Author
      October 9, 2018 / 1:41 pm

      Oooh, I haven’t heard of that one! I’ll look it up! Yes, I’d recommend it, but it’s quite intense in some ways so be prepared, haha!

  5. December 2, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    What other Japanese Lit have you read? It is my FAVE. Ryu Murakami is my fave author you need to check him out if you haven’t already! This was a great post and every single book sounds really interesting, going to add them to my to-read list!! xx

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