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The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness
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The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  510 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Homesick and alone, a teen-aged girl has just arrived in Seoul to work in a factory. Her family, still in the countryside, is too impoverished to keep sending her to school, so she works long, sun-less days on a stereo-assembly line, struggling through night school every evening in order to achieve her dream of becoming a writer. Korea’s brightest literary star sets this c ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Pegasus Books (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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Angela M
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it

The feeling of a burden carried is pervasive in this novel, as the narrator moves us from the present when she is 32 and a novelist, to her past as a 16 year old girl working in an electronics factory in Seoul and back and forth in time again . The transitions to and from the different times are not necessarily seamless yet once I was in each of the times , I was fully immersed .

It's the late 1970's in S. Korea and an unnamed narrator, lives with two of her brothers and a cousin in l
...more
Cyndi
Sep 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, education
The story and the characters are interesting and well written, but a few things kept me from rating the book higher. I'm not sure how to describe the writing style but it's very hard to read. It has a way of distancing the reader. I realize though that this could be the translation, not the original Korean. The politics also don't make a lot of sense to a naive reader. I understand why they're introduced so late in the book, because the protagonist herself is unaware of what is happening in the ...more
RoseMary Achey
Oct 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I tend to get very excited when an author I have read and enjoyed previously comes out with a new book. I loved author Kyung-sook Shin's novel Please Look After Mom and eagerly awaited release of The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness.

I am not sure if it was the format, narrative, translation or the flat story that did not work for me-perhaps a bit of everything. You will learn a good deal about South Korea's more recent history reading this novel, particularly the affect on the poorest of their citizens.

Hesper
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, koreas
I wanted to like this more, because it has some genuinely lovely writing that neither the bleak subject matter—a writer's chronicle of her teenage self's attempt to escape working class poverty—nor the clumsy editing errors littering my edition could obfuscate. Instead, I ended up loving individual passages without ever feeling any particular investment in the characters and plot.

I'm going to blame my lack of context.

The novel tells a very personal story, one inextricable
...more
Joel
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
(Note: I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.)

An introspective and autobiographical novel; the first-person narrator is never named, and her relatives are referred to only as Cousin, Third Brother, and so forth. At the end of the book, the author writes: "This book, I believe, has turned out to be not quite fact and not quite fiction, but something in between." I found it impossible to guess how much was fiction and how much autobiographical; I'd advise ot
...more
Barbara
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Masterful literary novel that illuminates how the most famous writer in Korea came to be. Her struggles; her coming of age during the tyranical totalitarian government. Out of millions of factory girls slaving away, came SHIN. A poetic and heartbreaking novel. Her best book yet.
Barbara
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Kyung-Sook Shin is a pint of Ben & Jerry's Coconut 7 Layer Bar ice cream. Creamy with nuts, fudge swirl, caramel, and graham cracker, every bite offers something different. You'll spoon your way to the bottom of the pint before you know it.

A teenage girl arrives in Seoul to begin working at a factory and pursue her dream of education to become a writer. Set in Korea’s industrial sweatshops of the 197
...more
Runwright
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This is my second novel from this author (I read I'll be Right There last year and gave it a similar rating). I saw glimpses of brilliance in both novels and because I am interested in Asian culture and love books about authors, this synopsis was intriguing. However, the storytelling didn't keep me as hooked as I would have liked and the decision to keep the characters unnamed and unidentified made it feel like we never established intimacy.
Click here to read my full review https://wp.me/p4cJzL-40Q
Amy Vickers
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about a novelist writing about her own past. This opens an emotional well that she has hidden from herself for her entire professional life. As readers, we learn about her past through her writing, which reads like a flashback.

I love that this book is about writing to understand oneself. I really relate to the narrator asking herself why she writes what she does, as well as her questions over what she should omit and include in her written personal history.

...more
Debbie Sweeney
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think perhaps something has been lost in translation. There were a lot of grammatical errors which, as the daughter of an English teacher, is a pet peeve. I forced myself to finish it though I cannot say that I enjoyed it. I found the writing style choppy and the transitions from past to present were so awkward that I found it disheartening. There were some beautiful passages, but overall these did not make up for the rest.
Dominika
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I like Kyung-Sook Shin way of portraying reality, yet in this book something was missing. Still a great read.
Melody
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I fell in love with Kyung-Sook Shin's prose after reading I'll Be Right There. In that story, she has eloquently captured the voices of her characters and made me empathise and care for them. You can say her writing is poetic because that's how I felt about it - beautiful, meaningful and thought-provoking. Thus, when I found this latest release I grabbed a copy without bothering to read the blurb. Do you have one of those moments? I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about. Anyway...
...more
Nicole
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I tried to ignore the myriad editing mistakes, but it wore out my patience. Didn't anyone proofread this?! Here's a few from a section of only 23 pages: I have rarely seem (203) ...Cousin's looks worried. (205) ...no matter how I obsessive I was,(211) ...Miss Myeong gazes out at Miss Lee with her armed crossed. (226)

Also, due to this, I'm confused about a lover? mentioned early in the book as "H" and then another towards the end referred to as "J"...then, hmmm, could one of them be a typo? Were they both "H" or "J", or, 2
...more
Barefoot Danger
May 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
First things first, this book reads almost as if it were translated one word at a time, or plugged in to google translate. It definitely wasn't copy-edited. All over the place, pronouns, prepositions, other words are missing from sentences. Stylistic quirks pop up here and there randomly that aren't present anywhere else in the text. Events taking place in the framing story are told in the past tense, while the 'real' narrative is presented in present tense, except when the author/translator/edi ...more
Bookworm
Sep 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Book just...drifts along. I was somewhat familiar with the author (her previous work is 'Please Look After Mom') and this sounded like an intriguing pickup. The main character is a young woman who must work in a factory after her family can no longer send her to school. So she gets a job in a dreary factory while attending night school in order to be a writer.
 
Sounds like a great novel, right? Wrong. I was somewhat familiar with her other book (haven't read it) but this book just...d
...more
Lisa
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
This was the third book by Kyung-sook Shin that I've read and probably my least favorite. "Please Look After Mom" was an outstanding feat and so I was really looking forward to "The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness." This book which the author says is part fiction and part non-fiction was harder to grasp as it went back and forth from her recent past publishing the book and her more distant past as a night high school student during the 1970's in South Korea. News coverage of South Korea was scant in t ...more
Karen
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
I read I'll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin last year and I have been wanting to read this and her first book Please Look After Mom. Although I didn't love this book as much as I'll Be Right There, I still enjoyed this immensely.

An unnamed narrator, who is a popular author in South Korea receives a call from an old co-worker, who is wondering if the author is ashamed of her once friends. So, the author writes the story of her years working in a stereo factory and going to school at night to finish High Sc
...more
Lauren Hopkins
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
It was an audiobook so just imagine 15 hours of metaphor.
TheRavenpuffWhovian
This was amazing.
Diane
Sep 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Did not finish it. did not like it.
Sandra
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
'At sixteen, when I pierced the sole of my foot with the pitchfork, while sitting on the veranda of the house with the blue gate, waiting for Brother's letter, I got a vague sense that life was made up of vicious wounds. And in order to embrace that viciousness and live on, I had to retain in my heart one thing that was pure. That I should believe in and depend on that one thing. If not, I would be too lonely. And if I simply lived on, I would some day, once again, pierce my foot with a pitchfor ...more
samantha
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
okay, I wasn’t expecting this to read like random trains of thoughts......

First of all, I like that this gives insight to a particular bit of history that I’ve never heard of before. The factory girls and the special program for their education is interesting and I wish the story could have focused more on that. Perhaps I was wrong in expecting a story when really this is a somewhat autobiographical memoir. It’s more of a recollection of things that the author has went through imo.

S
...more
Bethany
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I both liked the way this book was written and felt overwhelmed by it. It's a quiet book, but it also felt slippery like I couldn't completely get a hold on the story, or the characters. I'm not sure that made sense. Something about this book fascinates me, but also I longed to finish it often when I was reading. I'll certainly be reading other books by this author.

Also this is irrelevant, but it's bothering me because I can't find mention of it, but the main character seemed to be q
...more
Kathy
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Listened to audiobook.

I have found that I prefer to listen to books that deal with another culture, particularly when the book has been translated. Generally, the narrator is someone from the same heritage as the author, and their voice enhances the experience. Unrelated to this, some books that I feel certain I would have given up on had I been reading them I am able to finish in audiobook format, because, for me, listening is more passive than reading. This is definitely true of th
...more
Marcella Blankenship
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Her writing style skips around a bit therefore making it a little hard to read. However, I enjoyed reading about her life and how it was for the youth in Korea during that time period. I had a penpal in Korea during the mid eighties and we had to stop writing each other. He had stated that his life was "getting hard". I've often wondered what he meant by that and that time there was really no way to know about what was going on other than the general media and his writing fluency wasn't good eno ...more
Nalinee Barrett
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very intense look into both the mind of the writer and the story of life in South Korea in the post war years. The bleakness of industrialisation, the poverty of rural life and the growing pains of a teenage girl make for a very grim view of life. Deeply poignant, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the uplift. It feels like it’s there in the unspoken future but it never arrives in the pages.
Monahil
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The emotions and thoughts described in the book are beautiful and truly reel in the reader. An amazing read and one I think will be leaving an impact on me for a long time.

P.S.
When I started the book I couldn't easily follow the translation. Afterwards, either I got used to it or the translation became better, I'm not sure. I believe it was the latter. But a revision of the beginning would be nice.
Sophia My
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this book after the "Please take care of our mom" and find myself caught in the middle of though again. It is indeed that loneliness is company in life, not always represent but like a part of our heart, it is still there, can'r resolve, can't deny!

And the more secret one keeps, the lonelier we feel. Learn to walk with our loneliness...

Visit my blog for more though about the book (Vietnamese)
Reading this book after the "Please take care of our mom" and find myself caught in the middle of though again. It is indeed that loneliness is company in life, not always represent but like a part of our heart, it is still there, can'r resolve, can't deny!

And the more secret one keeps, the lonelier we feel. Learn to walk with our loneliness...

Visit my blog for more though about the book (Vietnamese)
https://redbunnyjk19.blogspot.com/201...
...more
Meg
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
4.5 stars. This absolutely beautiful novel interwove the narrator's current experience of writing the novel (exploring the meaning of writing and memory) with the story she is telling about her late teen years working in an industrial sweatshop in Seoul. The structure of this book was really masterful; the slow pacing that at first seems to be drifting around in a confusing way was actually part of the novel's artistry.
Sarah R.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
This took me 2 months to finish! I was actually looking forward to reading this after I read Shin’s Please Look After Mom last year because I really enjoyed that one. Aside from this being a bore, I must admit that I did enjoy some parts of the book and I contemplated heavilly whether or not to give this book 1 star. I settled for 2. I will still read Shin’s work in the future, thats for sure.
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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'.
“History is in charge of putting things in order and society is in charge of defining them. The more order we achieve, the more truth is hidden behind that neat surface... Perhaps literature is about throwing into disarray what has been defined... About making a mess of things, all over again.” 5 likes
“I wanted to write not because I thought writing would bring about change. I simply loved it. Writing, in itself, allowed me to dream about things that in reality were impossible to achieve, things that were forbidden. From where had that dream seeped in? I consider myself as a member of society. If I can dream through my writing, doesn't that mean the society can dream, too? Oppa. When I think about writing, I think I am reminded of the penetrating eyes of a dog gazing at his master. The beauty of the face in those eyes, the sadness that comes from submitting to love, the silence that comes from having seen what it should not have.” 1 likes
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