“Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother–a singer stolen to Pyongyang–and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.”
Adam Johnson (who happens to be a creative writing professor at Stanford University) gave a lecture at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this year (which was exceptional) where I had the opportunity to meet him and discover his Pulitzer’s winning novel. This book is daring and captivating. The exploration and treatment of a culture and nation so isolated and mysterious to the Western mind, is both fascinating and thrilling. While I was critical about the way Johnson had positioned his audience towards the nation of North Korea and how realistic his narrative reflected life under the Kim Jong-il leadership, I have to admit that the more I have researched since reading this book, the more accurate (and shocking) I have found even the most unbelievable aspects to be. Outside of its possible political or cultural (in)accuracies, Johnson has written an entirely unique and gripping novel that, as the panel of the Pulitzer Prize declared, “carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.”
Mature themes and content (most of which is implied rather than explicitly stated).
Really, really great read.