This book was more powerful than I could have imagined, and I will never understand how I managed to stop myself crying until right at the end. The whole story, from both Anna and Jae-hee’s perspectives, read like a biography and I’m struggling to accept that it wasn’t one.
I’ve found that I learn about history best by reading historical fiction, as you don’t just learn the facts, you feel them too, and I’ve been incredibly educated during this read. I had no idea how the Koreans were treated during the Second World War, and I’m ashamed of myself for it; I cannot believe it’s less than 100 years ago. I don’t know much about North and South Korea, but I’m working through different books to educate myself, and despite this being a fictitious story, I’ve definitely learnt a lot about the divide between the two countries and how it came to be. If anything, this book has made me more hungry for knowledge about North and South Korea. It’s also opened my eyes wider to the behaviour of the Japanese during that time – the focus always tends to be on Germany, but Japan, and Russia, played their parts in the horror of that time too.
The story itself that William Andrews has created is beautiful and incredibly powerful; my heart was broken throughout the entire read and it’s a story I will think about for a long time to come. I cried and cringed for the characters, and my heart warmed when something went right for Jae-lee. William has managed to stitch together such a captivating story and has created characters that feel incredibly real. When I finished the book I cried for Jae-hee, and for all the real women who went through what her character did; I think reading the author’s note at the end made me cry because it reinforced that Jae-hee’s life is based upon incredibly real, and painful, events. Although the story broke my heart, I’m sad I’ve finished the book because it was an incredible story. One day I would love to do my bit to help raise awareness of Korea’s secrets, but also to help those still suffering in Korea.