by Jane Hur ASN/ISBN: 9781250229588 Publication: April 20, 2021
I was excited to read Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls. Some of my favorite dramas are set during the Joseon era so I was looking forward to reading a novel set during this period as well.
After learning about 13 girls all missing from the same village, Detective Min heads back to his old home to try to solve the case, but he also goes missing. Our protagonist is his 18-year-old daughter Hwani Min who refuses to believe her father is dead with only a scrap of his clothes found as confirmation of his death and not his body. She heads to Jeju Island to search for him.
Set during a time when women had limited agency, it was somewhat surprising that Hwani was given so much leeway throughout Jeju to search for him, but I liked the focus on strong women, especially Hwani. Hwani is a determined individual, quite stubborn actually. It’s also very clear from the beginning that she’s her father’s daughter. Throughout the book, Hwani is constantly looking over the evidence and list of suspects, trying to figure out what her father would do. She often refers to him as Joseon’s greatest detective and has lived her life trying to make him proud. Her belief in her father and her conviction that he is alive is so strong that I hoped as much as she does that he would be found alive.
While Hwani is the main protagonist, her younger sister Maewol plays a central role in the story. Their relationship is complicated because their vastly different relationships with their father. Hwani idolizes her father, whereas Maewol’s feelings are much more complicated–she is the daughter left behind. Maewol has different memories of their father, making it difficult for Hwani to reconcile what she knows and feels about her father with Maewol’s account of him. Hwani’s memory loss of a significant event further exacerbates the problem so there is a lot of tension whenever the sisters interact with each other. The focus on their relationship highlights how the story is more than just about searching for their father and solving the disappearance of girls from Nowon Village; it’s about grief and family.
The plot was interesting and well thought out. There are several red herrings throughout the book, just enough to make the reader question who the culprit might be. I read it the first time, eager to get to the ending, then I read it a second time to piece together the clues and to fully enjoy Hur’s writing prowess. It’s not just the plot, but the writing that makes this such a good read. One of my favorites is the first line of the novel, providing a hint of the beauty of Hur’s writing in the pages to come: “The screen of mist was thick around the red pinewood vessel, as though secrets hid beyond of a land I was not permitted to see.” The book is filled with vivid descriptions that make the setting and the story come alive. I would recommend this to those who appreciate a good mystery novel. Individuals who liked Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021) and are looking for another well-written mystery may enjoy this novel as well.
I was nominated by Kimberly at My Bookish Bliss. Her blog is one I follow, and I enjoy reading the content she provides. Please check out My Bookish Bliss when you get the opportunity. (The advice she provides in the linked post above is on point!)
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HOW MY BLOG STARTeD
I started my blog last year in June. It’s nearly been a year but there is still so much to learn. I started my blog because I started reading fiction again after a long break from reading anything. I was scarred from all the textbooks I had to read. To my surprise, there seemed to have been an explosion of diversity not only in characters but also in authors. More is still needed, but trust me when I say that it was pretty much nonexistent for me when I was growing up. There were also bloggers that called for diversity in reviewers too. And then one thing led to another, and I thought I could add to increasing diversity while getting to talk about books. I’ve had a blast since then. The bookish community has been awesome.
ADViCE TO NEW BLOGGERS
One of the best pieces of advice comes from from a fellow blogger (Leelyn at SometimesLeelynReads) who I reached out to when I decided to to start a blog: “[write] your reviews the way that works best for you.” This has entailed a lot of different things for me. You can use other bloggers as inspiration. You can use another blogger’s rating system (don’t forget to attribute it to them). You can create your own rating system. You can go based on your feelings. Mainly, there isn’t a right or wrong way.This piece of advice has largely kept me going when I haven’t been sure of what to write. Not only am I a mood reader, but I’m also a mood blogger! The format of my posts may change depending on the book because the book inspired a different kind of post. Guess what? That’s okay! DO YOU!!
Be kind to yourself.It’s okay if you didn’t get a post done by a specific time. It’s okay if you didn’t finish a reading a book in time. AND IT’S OKAY TO NOT FINISH READING A BOOK. DNF IT IF YOU NEED TO. I still sometimes feel guilty about this, but as many bloggers have put it, life is too short to spend time reading a book you don’t enjoy; there are so many better books out there you could be reading instead. Blogging should be a fun experience and putting undue pressure on yourself can lead to anxiety and even burnout. Take breaks when you need it. If you didn’t read a book by a deadline you set for yourself, adjust the deadline. There’s time tomorrow to post it. And if tomorrow doesn’t work out, there’s the day after too. Take care of yourself first.