Beasts Of A Little Land by Juhea Kim
A breathtaking debut filled with vibrant characters and a profound emotional core. These are the words used by Lisa See, acclaimed author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, to describe the captivating novel Beasts of a Little Land.
This remarkable book, which emerged as a finalist for the prestigious 2022 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Balcones Fiction Prize, as well as being longlisted for the HWA Debut Crown Award, takes readers on an epic journey through love, war, and redemption against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement.
It all begins in 1917, amidst the unforgiving snow-covered mountains of occupied Korea. Here, an impoverished local hunter finds himself on the verge of starvation. However, a chance encounter with a young Japanese officer under attack by a fierce tiger forever links the destinies of these two individuals. From this point forward, a sprawling saga unfolds over the course of fifty years.
In the aftermath of this life-altering event, a young girl named Jade faces a desperate situation as her family sells her to Miss Silver’s courtesan school. This act of desperation firmly places Jade at the lowest rung of society. Yet, amidst the struggle, she forms a deep bond with JungHo, an orphan boy scraping together a living on the bustling streets of Seoul.
As Jade and JungHo mature, their lives take different paths. JungHo finds himself swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, while Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a chance at romance with someone of noble birth. Ultimately, Jade must confront a difficult choice, deciding whether to risk everything for the person who would do the same for her.
From the opulent confines of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul, and even the war-torn forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim presents readers with a world where alliances shift, heroes face persecution, and the line between friends and enemies blurs. This immersive and elegant novel unveils a universe where beasts take on many forms.
Beasts of a Little Land has garnered critical acclaim and has been highly recommended by numerous esteemed publications. USA Today, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Today Show, and Real Simple are just a few of the outlets that have recognized its brilliance. Good Morning America, Harper’s Bazaar, and Buzzfeed are also among the prestigious sources that have highly praised this compelling novel. Fortune, Vulture, Goodreads, Lit Hub, and Book Riot are included in the long list of voices that have celebrated the mesmerizing storytelling found within Beasts of a Little Land. PopSugar, E! Online, Ms. Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Bustle, The Oregonian, and The Millions are additional publications that have lauded this enthralling literary work.
Beasts of a Little Land: A Sweeping Epic of Korean History
Hello everyone, today we will be discussing “Beasts of a Little Land” by Eugene Kim. This debut novel has garnered a lot of anticipation and is featured on numerous lists as one of the most anticipated books of 2021 and 2022. “Beasts of a Little Land” offers a sweeping epic of Korean history in the 20th century, taking us through the Japanese invasion, occupation, the fight for independence, and post-independence turmoil. With a diverse cast of characters and a fresh backdrop, this novel promises an exciting and unique reading experience.
Yuha Kim has beautifully brought to life a country in turmoil and change, with hopes and dreams woven into the fabric of history. While there are some gaps in the narrative, the overall sweeping scope and vivid portrayal of changing landscapes and political dramas make this debut impressive. However, one aspect where “Beasts of a Little Land” struggles is in the development of its characters. While the love triangle between Jade, Young, and the rising star from a rickshaw creates the central plot, the characters themselves remain somewhat thinly drawn. Jade, in particular, is depicted as perennially good, remaining holier-than-thou throughout the entire book. This lack of complexity and conflict makes it difficult to fully engage with her as a central character.
However, where the novel truly shines is in its supporting cast of characters. From a Japanese military commander to Jade’s friends in the courtesan school, street thugs, communist idealists, and middle-class politicians, there is a breadth of nuance and depth that adds layers to the story. While some of these characters can at times verge on being pantomimic, especially the Japanese villain, they contribute significantly to the overall richness of the narrative.
Overall, “Beasts of a Little Land” is a well-written debut that offers an enjoyable reading experience. However, when comparing it to other epic novels such as “Gone with the Wind” or Hillary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series, there are areas where it falls short. To take on an epic, a book must excel in various aspects, from characterization to plot and themes. While the novel introduces interesting Korean themes, such as the concept of a thread that connects lives, the lack of complexity in the central characters, particularly Jade, prevents it from reaching the heights of other renowned epics.
Despite its shortcomings, “Beasts of a Little Land” should still be read and appreciated. Its capturing of historical events such as the Japanese invasion and the rise of communism, as well as its exploration of Korean culture and history, make it a worthwhile read. While it may not be the epitome of an epic, it is still an enjoyable and well-crafted debut novel that offers a unique perspective on Korean history.
However, it is worth noting that there are significant gaps in the narrative, with no mention of the Korean War, a pivotal event in 20th-century Korean history. This omission raises questions about the pacing and focus of the story, as characters’ lives seem to lose interest as they age. Despite this slight disappointment, “Beasts of a Little Land” remains a captivating read, with a wonderful sweep through history and a diverse cast of characters.