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The Color of Heaven (The Color of Earth) Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Seventeen-year-old Ehwa bids good-bye to the man she wants to marry as the final volume of this delicate and poetic Korean historical trilogy opens. Her mother is simultaneously full of angry concern and understanding sympathy—each woman must wait, tending flowers and hoping to see their loves again. It's fascinating to see such a female-centered generational story, but it's a shame that, due to the time period, the women can take no action. They are passive, waiting, because that is the heart of a woman; their lives are incomplete without a man. Natural metaphors and seasonal images give the story texture: trees are undressed; male organs are chili peppers; and young men are butterflies flitting among flowers. Village girls see naked neighbors; men who aspire too much in their love are beaten to death; and marriage proposals come to the prettiest. The art is as minimally poetic as the content. Panels are spare, with plenty of white space, and the eyes are most often stacks of horizontal lines, making the characters seem thoughtful or as though they're looking sidelong at life. (Sept.)
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“The final-and best-installment of manhwa artist Kim's moving trilogy chronicling the coming of age of a girl in pastoral Korea, based loosely on his mother's own youth. As summer comes to a close, the strikingly cinematic opening finds Ehwa bidding a hurried farewell to the handsome wrestler who caught her eye in the previous installment (The Color of Water, 2009). Her lover heads off to work as a fisherman, and Ehwa returns to her mother's tavern and begins an autumn of discontent. She's testy to friends and fresh with her mother, but most of all, she's frustrated by the distance between herself and Duksam. Winter arrives, bringing with it not only Duksam's unexpected return and plans for a spring wedding but also the artist's stark, crisp winter landscapes. As Ehwa and her mother prepare for the traditional ceremony, the nuanced nature metaphors and fertile scenery evoke the melancholy of change. This title, more than its predecessors, blends achingly beautiful artwork with a well-paced story-as fully realized, finally, as the heroine the artist has created. (discussion guide) (Graphic novel. 14 & up)” ―Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“The tender and gorgeously illustrated manhwa trilogy (begun in The Color of Earth and The Color of Water, both 2009) honoring the artist's mother as she travels from childhood through girlhood to her status as a newlywed young woman comes to a successful close in this volume. Ehwa, at 17, is beautiful and lonely, having had to part with her true love when he must run away to sea. With her widowed mother, she learns to wait and to read traditional signs in nature, such as specific flower bloomings or the first snow. All turns out happily with her love's return and the ensuing marriage. The full cycle belongs in every literary collection.” ―Francisca Goldsmith, Booklist
“Having foundered a bit in terms of narrative flow in the second installment of this manhwa trilogy, Hwa regains his footing as he completes the coming-of-age tale of Ehwa, a young woman of early twentieth century Korea, in this graphic novel based on his mother's youth. After a tearful farewell to her young man, Duksam, who promises to return to her after he has made some money, Ehwa is lashed by her mother for staying out all night. Her punishment concludes, however, with a new sense of trust as he mother acknowledges that Ehwa is no longer a child. The two women commiserate over the trials of waiting for one's beloved, and Ehwa shares a funny moment with a randy female friend as they discuss the Korean ideals of beauty for women. When Duksam returns, he and Ehwa turn their attention to marriage, and Ehwa's mother mediates on the joy she has for her daughter commingled with the fears she has for her own lonely future. Fortunately, Mother's own suitor returns with intention to stay, so both women will enjoy futures with the men they love. Hwa is at his pictorial storytelling best in the chapter on Ehwa's bridal night, where he mingles increasingly ecstatic metaphoric imagery (starting with butterflies, clouds, flower petals, and paper lanterns and ending with pounding gongs, a mortar and pestle, and a waterfall) with discreet but illustrative linework of the beautiful young couple making love. The result is both sweet and sexy, but the erotic tension is broken by humorous scenes of the village girls listening at the door, and of one of the lascivious old men from the tavern, inspired by the wedding night, trying (and ultimately failing) at sex with his puzzled, sharp-tongued wife. The wit both cuts and sharpens the sweet by contrast, but it is the ultimate scene of the mother wistfully peering out into the night that sounds the haunting, sustained note of longing and nostalgia that flows through this profoundly moving picture of a girl's path to womanhood. An extensive discussion guide for the entire series, some of it repeated from the first and second books, follows the text.” ―School Library Journal
“Gr 10 Up–This manhwa concludes this quietly moving trilogy about Ehwa and her mother. Ehwa is in love with Duksam, who left at the end of The Color of Water (Roaring Brook, 2009) to make his fortune so that he could come back and marry her. Actually, he also left to escape the men who wanted to punish him for destroying the property of the old man who tried to take Ehwa for himself in volume two. Most of this book takes place in the village with the two women pining for their men and talking about men and nature and flowers and trees. Hwa's black-and-white illustrations are once again stunning, simple at first glance but on closer examination they are amazing in their detail. The Color of Heaven can stand on its own as an enjoyable read, but it is an absolute must for readers who have devoured the earlier volumes.” ―Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
“After months of painfully waiting for his return, seventeen-year-old Ehwa marries her fiancé, Duksam, in this romantic yet bittersweet conclusion to The Color Trilogy. Ehwa is thrilled to be marrying Duksam, who has been away at sea earning money so they can marry. But Ehwa is also heartbroken about leaving her childhood home and her widowed mother behind. Likewise, Ehwa's mother is happy for her but worried about sending her into marriage so young and inexperienced. Her mother is also afraid that she will be lonely when Ehwa is gone, although her lover, a traveling artist, does come to visit her with the promise of a more stable relationship.
The plot of the story is simple, as the book focuses on the inner lives of Ehwa and her mother. The culmination of the trilogy is the marriage ceremony and Ehwa's wedding night, depicted with evocative illustrations that rely heavily on nature symbols such as butterflies, flowers, and water. The book ends hopefully with the promise that Ehwa and Duksam will have a happy life. Ehwa's mother has learned, however, that love does not guarantee happiness, as death, distance, and age can leave women alone and longing.” ―Amy Luedtke, Voya
“In this concluding volume to the Color trilogy, Kim Dong Hwa takes the relationship between Ehwa and her mother to a new level, for the little girl is now seventeen and a blossoming woman. The women find they have more in common than they thought, as they wait and yearn for their lovers who are far away, wondering when they will return. Nevertheless, Ehwa still has some crucial lessons to learn from her parent. But Hwa must bring the series to a close, and he does so with Ehwa's betrothal to Duksam, and their beautiful wedding. Her mother says goodbye to the daughter she's had in her home for so long, and while her lover now returns to her for good, she finds herself once again looking out from her home, waiting, this time for the return of her daughter who she now misses greatly. Hwa's artwork and scenery continue to astound, while The Color of Heaven does an incredible job of revealing facets of Korean culture rendered in such a beautiful way.” ―Sacramento Book Review
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Ehwa's mother is so wise and she tries to impart that wisdom on her daughter.Throughout the trilogy, I felt great sympathy for the mother. She is a widow but has fallen in love with a traveling salesman, the Picture Man. She is constantly watching the village entrance for his unpredictable return. While her heart is missing her love, she has to teach Ehwa how to love and live her life with honor.
Atthe end, Ehwa is only seventeen years old and preparing for her wedding. She travels through her home village and reminisces over her young life. She says good-bye to former loves and her life. It is so bittersweet. But she is ready to be with her true love. Hwa portrays Ehwa's wedding night in some detail.There is some nudity but it is a sweet love scene. However, watch out for the old couple. That wasn't very appealing to see.
If you have never read any kind of graphic novel, I highly recommen
The Color of Heaven is Kim's strongest work in the trilogy artistically speaking. He contrasts the general brightness of the first two books with some beautiful, effective shading in the third.
The story itself is weak and though there was little action in The Color of Earth and The Color of Water, readers will find themselves wading through pages about a main character whose primary objective is waiting.
Make no mistake, this book is worth the completion of the trilogy, but if you're expecting the deft plot twists and moral ambiguity of Osamu Tezuka's work, you will be disappointed. It's a light and airy love song, written by a Korean, about Koreans, to Koreans. And while the author/illustrator's love for his female forebears is commendable, the ending is much too easy to be the kind of realism he painted at the beginning.
Dong Hwa Kim is a master of all three traditional asian arts- poetry, drawing, and story. The drawings on some of these pages are so detailed and spell-binding they are worthy to be on your wall for daily enjoyment. The lovely, subtle way in which he tells the story of Ehwa's sexual and life awakening is wonderful.
In this finale, Ehwa is finally set to be married. The writer perfectly expresses the mixed emotions that her mother feels- supreme happiness and sadness at the same time. It's the same way I felt when the story was ended- satisfied, moved, but sad that it was all over.
(Note to parents: I felt the first 2 of the trilogy were appropriate for my 10-year old daughter, but held off on this one for her- mainly because of the wedding night scene, which although the artist is subtle enough, was more explicit than I felt she was prepared for. I'd guess that this portion is more appropriate for ages 12 and above.)
Originally written on August 8th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.
Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.
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