From Publishers Weekly
For American readers, Bernardo Bertolucci's film 1900 is perhaps the comparison that best illuminates this sprawling, turn-of-the-century saga, which is considered to be a masterpiece of contemporary Korean literature. Like that film, this novel tracks a generation of poor villagers and their rich landlords through a period of cultural and social upheaval. The Choi family has ruled over their peasants "for more than a hundred years.'' Though serfdom was abolished in 1893, the superstitious, fatalistic peasants resist change in the social order, preferring to stick with the life they know. They gossip about Lady Yoon, her son Chisoo and Kuchon, Chisoo's secret half-brother, as they go about their hard labor on their small plots of land. Most likely to engage American readers are the machinations of the ambitious servant Guinyo, who schemes to get pregnant and pass the child off as a Choi heir. Many plot threads are left unresolved. The translation, apparently striving for a somber restraint, is flat, and awkwardly integrated flashbacks and shifting points of view make for slow reading. Still, the novel offers an education in Korean history and mores wrapped in the accessible and compelling form of the regional epic.
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