Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness” as Want to Read:
The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  623 ratings  ·  109 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  623 ratings  ·  109 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness
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 less than opt
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 citizen
Anna Baillie-Karas
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
An autobiographical novel told with great honesty and filled with intimate moments from her life as a factory girl and student living in a cramped room. It also gives a picture of South Korea’s rapid transition to a developed economy.

At the heart of the novel is a tragedy that weighs on the author, an event that she resists telling. Her resistance is palpable and this itself - and the fact that she shares it with the reader - adds intrigue,

The structure moves from the events of 1979/80 when sh
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: koreas, fiction
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 from a particular point
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 other readers
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.
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 1970s, this story u
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
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.

In both the past and pr
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.
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.
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...

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) 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
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...drifts along.
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
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
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 f
Maria Victoria Sanchez
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like this kind of books. You can read it like a fictional autobiography. It tried to answer the questions; why do i write? why do i have written about this? how did i get here? what is reality? what is literature?. I really don't know how much of the events narrated in the book are true but they fell really true and they painted a really interesting view of a certain time in a certain country from the point of view of somebody who likes words and storytelling. It feel really honest!
Lauren Hopkins
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
It was an audiobook so just imagine 15 hours of metaphor.
This was amazing.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Did not finish it. did not like it.
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
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 queer? At one
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.

Secondly, the
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful. Kyung-Sook Shin delves into her past, into writing, into what memories do with a person, creating a fascinating autobiographically inspired book.

As someone not very familiar with Korean history, many historical references passed me by even when the oppressive political atmosphere came across clearly enough at any time. The perspective goes back and forth between the narrator in the past as a sixteen to twenty year old and her thirty two year old present. Changes are often abrupt and
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 this title - I
This reads very much autobiographical, even though the author says it's "not quite fact, not quite fiction". The narration is moving between the present and a past set in the late 1970ies. Back then, during the day, she worked on the conveyor belt of an electronics factory, producing stereos, while at night she went to high school. The present is a rather distracting stream of consciousness, but the stories of the past are fascinating: the widespread poverty, the shame associated with being a fa ...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
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.

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.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • I Have the Right to Destroy Myself
  • Human Acts
  • One Hundred Shadows
  • Drifting House
  • At Dusk
  • 82년생 김지영
  • Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories
  • Black Flower
  • Penance
  • The Comforters
  • The Just City (Thessaly, #1)
  • Christine Falls (Quirke, #1)
  • Grotesque
  • Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
  • Breasts and Eggs
  • The Lake
  • The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
  • Thánh Giá Rỗng
See similar books…
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'.

News & Interviews

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
23 likes · 36 comments
“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
More quotes…