22 July, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by Adam Johnson [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

There are not many books that I will stay up late to read, but this one really grabbed me. I didn't know what was going to happen next and I had to keep reading to find out.

Set in North Korea this book follows the life of Pak Jan Do who is the Orphan Masters son. He is raised the same as the other boys in the work camp for orphans, who routinely get the most dangerous jobs. He becomes a tunnel soldier trained to fight in complete darkness, then he is part of a group assigned to kidnaps Japanese citizens, then he works on a fishing boat as a radio operator. Finally he ends up in a prison mine and ends up killing and impersonating Commander Ga, the countries greatest military hero. Yes, a bit fantastical, but the way the author describes life in North Korea, where it seems that even ones thoughts are censored for fear of denunciation, there is no-body brave enough to speak out, so he gets away with it. People have been trained to accept any reality presented to them.

Adam Johnson describes North Korea as “the most difficult place on earth to be fully human…I had to use imagination to do it, because North Koreans aren’t allowed to tell their own stories.” His description of life in North Korea is fascinating, descriptions of privations and barbarities are matter of fact. Based on research and a bit of imagination, the story he tells is riveting. AND it is the WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE for fiction 2013. Highly recommended.

Author: Adam Johnson
IBSN: 9780812982626 (pbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Random House

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

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