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I'll Be Right There

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,506 ratings  ·  411 reviews
How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd
Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a d
Paperback, 325 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Other Press (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,506 ratings  ·  411 reviews

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Ms. Smartarse
Published in English as: I'll Be Right There.

Whoever chose the cover of the Romanian version should be fired, and have his/her cover choosing privileges rescinded. Every other edition uses very appropriate pictures, but not this one! Guess someone needed to ditch a KDrama poster in a hurry...

In the interest of fairness, I should admit that I did very much enjoy groping the silky smooth cover, and the quality of the translation is top notch. And I say that with non-existing Korean language knowle
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book will largely go unappreciated in the Anglophone world. It doesn't have the pizazz of a Murakami novel, nor is it a festive rendering of a vibrant exotic culture. It's the subtle, unique product of a sensitive, deep-feeling artist who is an interlocutor in the tradition of writers like Sebald, Natsume Soseki, and Emily Dickinson.

This writer is rather incomparable: she was born in the ashes of a civil war, when Korea was torn asunder and still rooted in its rural/folk traditions, and we
Thomas Edmund
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I always enjoy grabbing something by someone, when I know little of either and leaping right into the book. I'll Be Right There did not disappoint, bore, confuse or annoy, always an added bonus.

The tale is somewhat of a controlled meander, and at times throughout I worried that I would lose interest among the woven story-lines and occasionally long chapters. Nope. Shin somehow manages to pull interest even though her tale does not contain the typical dramas authors use to make you turn the page.
I feel like this is the ghost of the book it’s trying to be. Resonance and pathos are within its grasp but it isn’t quite able to achieve either. I'll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a young woman looking back on the period of her life when she was a university student in 1980s South Korea, where she had close friend group that was eventually torn apart by tragic circumstances. It seems a bit callous to say that I ultimately didn't care about these characters and the horrors they endured, but ...more
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Early in this spellbinding book, Professor Yoon relates to his class the story of Christopher: a giant of a man who carried travelers to the other side of a surging current. Yet he becomes increasingly despondent; he meets no one worth devoting his life to. One day, a child appears requesting passage. Even though the child is small, he seems so heavy that Christopher feels like he is carrying the weight of the world.

The child reveals himself as Christ. And the Professor ends his tale with these
Jim Fonseca
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: korean-authors

The coming of age story of a decidedly moody and introverted young South Korean woman. The events in the novel are set against the backdrop of the student riots that shut down universities in that country in the 1980’s. We follow a small group of students, some of whom disappear in the violence, and some of whom commit suicide, increasing the moodiness of our heroine. In a sense this book is about how traumatic events shape our lives and, in the case of this young woman, make her old before her
Hoda Marmar
To be read and reread, definitely!
I am fascinated by Koreans, they have character depth, forgiveness ideology, and their stories are quite emotional.
I don't know where to start; I'm in love with all of the characters, with all of their goods and bads, they're very real. I felt physically there on the streets they walked on, the places they visited. I laughed, frowned, smiled and cried with them. But the crying was very different from any other literary crying I've experienced, it was a gradual o
Claire Reads Books
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ll Be Right There is a book steeped in “the pain from an old wound.” It tells the story of university students living through the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in South Korea, a period of political upheaval, student protests, and unexplained deaths and disappearances. This feels less like a novel rooted in realism and more like a memory filtered through a thick lens of grief and regret; the radiance of youth and the ache of lost time bleed through every page. But while often deeply moving, the path ...more
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is not a book propelled by plot, and is for readers who like to philosophize and contemplate the nature of relationships and the feeling of a mood. "Let's remember this day forever" is a refrain that one character says to another from time to time. That is what this book is: a memory of a time when three college-aged friends bond, then look back on their lives to see how they have wandered apart so easily.

It is not like her first novel, in that it introduces various philosophical ideas and
J. Joan
Nov 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Though beautifully written and very poignant, I wanted to like this book more. The author knows how to capture your intrigue and draw the reader in, but I always felt like I was just scratching the surface of the story, and not getting the real depth of the characters or their back stories, to which there clearly were many.

I knew that intense histories made the characters behave as they did, and yet I felt I could never grasp just what those pasts were.

I would love to explore more of this criti
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, korea
Maybe it's my eurocentric lens, but I found the apparent - by no means real - magic realism of the book confusing. Time after time, you think it is a charming Murakami-style story; time after time, you are reminded the shit is real, and characters are simply neurotic beyond measure. I think this is the kind of writing I would have enjoyed much more in my early twenties. ...more
Maria Ella
Therefore, I leave you all with one final thought: Live. Until you are down to your final breath, love and fight and rage and grieve and live.

Set in 1980s Korea, the protagonist Jung Yoon recounts the memories of her college life triggered by the phone call of an ex-boyfriend after eight years of silence. Some would have guessed that this is a cheesy love story prologue, but what surprised me is the book is anything but. It reflects the lives of the youth on the Gwangju Uprising - the studen
Paul Fulcher
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
The male students were more interested in protesting or drinking than in going to class, and the female students were busy preening or being dramatically depressed. It was the kind of place where, in the middle of an ordinary conversation, you could burst into Hamlet's or Ophelia's lines and nobody thought anything of it. There it was considered a performance and a mark of individuality to sing incessantly or to sit in one spot and stare at someone without blinking.
신경숙's novel 어디선가 나를 찾는 전화벨
E. H. Nathasia
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
My rating 3.5/5. A heartbreaking story about love, relationship and friendship intertwined together during the hard times of South Korea. This book evokes emotions and feelings, the details can be somewhat tiresome to an extent. But overall very good read. It reminds me of Norwegian Wood but with different background and setting.
Chad Post
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I think Sora Kim-Russell did a fantastic job translating this book. The prose is very circular, drifting, in keeping with the nature of the novel on the whole.

Also, although I'm not a huge fan of either of the Kyung-sook Shin books available in English, I like her framing techniques, the way these novels are structured.

That said, I feel like Kyung-sook tries to do two things in this book--both of which only work so well, and which, in the end, may be incompatible.

I'm not going to recount the
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
I bought this book on an Audible Daily Deal, and while it was well written, it was a little too angsty and philosophical for my tastes.

Set primarily in 1980s South Korea, and told mainly through the eyes of Jung Yoon, looking back after a phone call from the ex boyfriend she hasn't heard from in 8 years, the book primarily tells the story of her intimate and intense friendships with three people, whose own intertwining relationships and personal stories are equally charged.

I found it very diffic
This was my first Korean novel. It is a melancholy rather than a sad novel. It is set in Korea during a time when students are eternally demonstrating. The prose is simple while beautiful. The group of students in the story revolve around a beloved professor. Their professor has a shelf in his office for the works of authors who died before the age of 33. The students read Dickenson and Rilke, I assume in Korean. Both lived into their fifties so I don’t know who was on the professor’s shelves. T ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Some books find you by chance and stay with you forever. If you are lucky, you get a handful of them and you never know when and if the next one is going to come. I'll Be Right There is that kind of a book for me- I came across it without knowing much about it and found myself immediately drawn into the world of its melancholic characters and turbulent times that shape their tragic destinies. It's the quiet sadness of East Asian literature, the deep pain of everyday life and the dignity in face ...more
Just like The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea, I really thought this was sure to end up as one of my most memories reads. Again, it was not so.

The books was SO slow (and I am one who revels in slow books, provided the characters are dynamic) but this was just... nothing was happening. Nothing.
Couldn’t connect with the characters.
The love story... they barely had scenes together and yet...
Ruthie Jones
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book
Do not ignore or neglect the people in your life. They need you.


"This too shall pass. . . That advice applies both to those who suffer and to those whose lives are filled with abundance." ~ Prologue

"Literature and art are not simply what will carry you; they are also what you must lay down your life for, what you must labor over and shoulder for the rest of your life." ~ chapter 2

"Don't stop questioning the unjust and puzzling." ~ chapter 10
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautiful books I have read recently. It is hard to write about love (especially young adult love without being cheesy and the characters not to be annoying) but Sook-Shin writes so good that you want to be in love for the first time with all the butterflies and heartbreak that follows.

In a 60's ambiance in South Korea, an era of student protests, love comes softly and whispers I will be there. And hopefully, it is enough...
Alex Black
I wanted to really love this book, but I struggled with what amounted to a singular aspect of the story: Shin's decision to make this novel universal. For most of this book, I thought I was confused and not understanding the political situation because this is a South Korean book written for a South Korean audience. When you write a book about the Great Depression for an American audience, you don't have to explain what it was or why it happened. Your audience already has the context. I thought ...more
Kater Cheek
This is the kind of book people think of when they think of a novel. Poignant and somber, it deals with loss, grief, memory, and the futility of making promises about "someday." It's also depressing as hell. Lots of people die in this, either by suicide, homicide that looks like suicide, or suicide in a particularly horrible and painful way. Most of these deaths come after the person had already lost the thing most dear in the world to them, sometimes more than once.

This novel reads like a disjo
Scott Worden
May 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-korea
This book was better than Kyung Sook Shin's other novel "Please Look After Mom". However, the ending was a bit anti-climactic and her style of writing is not my favorite. Similar to "Please Look After Mom", this one jumps back and forth from the present to past constantly. Sometimes I got confused with whose voice was being portrayed in the book (also similar to the fore mentioned book). My exact rating would be 3.5. ...more
Tanja Berg
Rating 2.4* out of 5. This book is in the category that makes me doubt myself as a reader. I found it difficult to concentrate and couldn't understand what was going on for half the time. Of course, there are two possible explanations aside from content - translation and alien culture. However, in all of this, there were some truly beautiful and memorable parts. As to what this book was really about taken as a whole, I have no idea. ...more
Amara Oden
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was such a satisfying read. I've been seeking out authors of color and this author is Korean, the novel set in modern Korea. The language was beautiful in its 'plainsspeak': originally written in Korean so fewer worn out English turns of phrase. If you're after plot it's not here, rather the slow development of a few characters and their friendship. ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very beautifully written and touching story of love, friendship and loss amidst turbulent times in South Korea. I will definitely continue to read more of her books as she reaches such depth of expression in her writing.
Feb 05, 2017 added it
Shelves: korean-fiction
Having read Shin's more popular Please Look After Mom last year, I found I'll Be Right There to be similarly paced, and similarly rather hazy in its tone, but for some reason, far more interesting. Maybe it was the backdrop of the political chaos of '80s South Korea. Maybe it was the intersection of literature and old friendships from another time. Maybe it was the aging professor character, who acts as the ethical and intellectual benchmark for so much of the action. I'm still not sure why, but ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, korea
This book is a treasure and I can't believe it took me nearly a year to read. I kept having to set it down to absorb it, though. Masterful writing, even if the end was a bit drawn out. When I finished it I was crying. Highly recommended. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: typo 3 26 Oct 29, 2014 04:25PM  
Korean Authors: Kyung-sook Shin's 'I'll Be Right There' finds artful solace 1 17 Jun 02, 2014 06:09PM  

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Associated Names:
* Shin Kyung-sook
* 신경숙

Kyung-Sook Shin is a South Korean writer. She is the first South Korean and first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012 for 'Please Look After Mom'.

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66 likes · 30 comments
“Life demands sacrifice and difficult decisions from us at every moment. Living does not mean passing through a void of nothingness but rather through a web of relationships among beings, each with their own weight and volume and texture.” 17 likes
“If only we could have met each other sooner. We had led such poor and fragile lives, each alone.” 15 likes
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