About the book:
In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.
Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.
Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021.
I have pondered for weeks since I read Lemon about how I could write a review that would do this complex and intricate novella justice. I am not sure what I expected, but Lemon is not a thriller or a mystery, although there is a mystery within the story. What the novella does is reflect on the aftermath of death, in this case, the death of beautiful Hae-on and the effect her murder has on the people around her.
It contemplates on the grief people experience following a trauma, but it also reflects on guilt and retribution, both of which arise following the death. When you read this book you will not be given an idea of who committed the murder, but rather you will be left to make your own conclusions based on what is said and by whom.
In addition to reflecting on grief and what follows, there is a strong societal bias that impacts on the two suspects in the murder, Shin Jeongjun and Han Manu. Jeongjun is automatically believed in the investigation because he is rich, Manu comes from a very impoverished position in society and is therefore considered to be the prime suspect, in spite of the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that either of them is responsible for the death of Hae-on.
Narrated by Da-on, in addition to school friends Sanghui and Taerim, as the years pass, the constant burden of grief and guilt causes an unravelling that leads to revelations that will blow the story apart without ever explicitly stating it.
This is such an understated and yet at the same time complex novella, that hints at the reality of the situation for all concerned, without ever actually spelling it out.
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About the author:
Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language.
About the translator:
Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award. Her recent translations include Ha Seong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.
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