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The Court Dancer

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  604 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Based on a remarkable true story, the New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom brilliantly images the life of Yi Jin, an orphan who would fall under the affections of the Empress and become a jewel in the late Joseon Court.

When a novice French diplomat arrives for an audience with the Emperor, he is enraptured by the Joseon Dynasty’s magnificent culture,
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Pegasus Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Late Nineteenth Century conflict between China and Japan over domination of the Korean Peninsula wreaked havoc upon Korea's Joseon Dynasty. The turbulent period was denoted by a decrease in Chinese influence while Japanese power flourished. Korea's Queen Min faced many insurrections and threats on her life. Who could she trust? Yi Jin, A five year old orphan brought to court, became mesmerized by the beautiful green robes of the Queen. Queen Min lovingly spoon fed Jin the meat and juice of a ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
Wow! Now this is a powerful historical fiction that takes readers back to 19th century Korea and Paris. Our story begins with a young Korean woman, Jin, a court dancer being taken to France by the French delegate, Victorthat quickly became enamored with her. Even going as far as begging the King and Queen for her hand. We are then given Jin's childhood years as a 5 year old orphan bewitching a Dowager Consort and meeting her mute friend Yeon, who will become a gifted musician. As Jin navigates ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone! Especially to people who love Asia's culture and history!
Recommended to Anh by: Goodreads
Shelves: favorites
Another Home Run for Shin Kyung Sook!
Being French, I never thought I could find a real French atmosphere described by a non native person like that. Finds out she just pulled it off and beautifully that is! The Historical and cultural Korean backgrounds are fascinating! I loved this book so much I took me a month and a half to read it: I just couldn't finish it and be like "it's over". The author wrote this book as some kind of tribute to this little Korean dancer who was taken away from all she
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-faves
Absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking work ... set amid political turmoil and personal angst in 1880s Korea and Paris, a love affair leads to loneliness, resentment, political intrigue, and personal loyalty beyond the comprehension of most mortal souls. Our heroine is bright, open, and special. Her fate is understandable, yet devastating to read. I finished this book in tears and yet satisfied that it told me all it had to tell. Kyung-Sook Shin is a lovely, compassionate, strong writer, and ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The historical story was moderately interesting, but the love story was pukeworthy, especially one god-awful sex scene early on, and the horrific paragraph ending with “Where she should have curves, she had curves.” Nopity-nope-nope. Bailed a few pages after that.
Amanda Van Parys
Personally, I enjoyed this book. I don't see too many novels out there about Korea, especially pre-war Korea. This was a simple story, yet elegantly told and beautifully translated. This was a recommendation featured on the Book Riot All The Books podcast (which I highly recommend for inclusive new release features!).

Read for the 2019 Read Harder Challenge: A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading this in my mother tongue (Romanian) and all I can say it was a beautiful book- it moved me to tears. The story of Li Chin (Yi Jin, depending on the language you're reading the book in) is a moving one- living all of her life as a court servant for the Queen, Yi Jin is an orphan who was taken in by a village woman named Soa and who was taken to the royal palace as a child. Being loved by the Queen as if she was her own child, Yi Jin grows up to become a court dancer, and ...more
Lynsy • Little Book Jockey
This is a period in Korean history that wrenches my heart because I know what's going to happen to the people in the stories set during this time. Not only that, but Jin's struggle with identity and othering were also hard to get through. That said, my favorite part of this book is actually the heartbreak at the end, when Joseon is forced to become the Korean Empire. The events are awful, but the way Shin wrote this part and the way Hur translated it are done so well. I felt so deeply for Jin ...more
Ronald Chapman
The Court Dancer:
by Kyung-Sook Shin (Author), Anton Hur (Translator)

Kyung-Sook Shin provides beautiful descriptions of everything. I could picture everything. It was like watching a Korean Drama in my mind.
And Victor Collin de Plancy was a real living person. Very cool!

She even describes the game 투호 Tuho.
The best story I've read in a while.
Thank you for doing such a terrific job of translating the story.
Now everyone is going to want to play 투호.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow! I had hoped that I would enjoy this book, but I never would have thought it would steal my heart away.

This book starts out a bit confusing, but once I got used to the language I really enjoyed it. As I progressed through the book, I honestly could not tell you my feelings but I couldn't stop reading it. At the end of this book, I cried and cried. The main character Jin is an intriguing character whose life is one of sadness, learning, regret, and love. Her ending was so unexpected,
Esther Espeland
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Wow this book was a big ole bummer! I think the structure of the book was confusing for me, lots of jumps in time and interspersing letters. But it still made me FEEL- women being treated as literal objects with a big sad ending! Oof
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that this book did take a while to get into. There were things that irked me as I read, but the entire experience of this book, the writing, the characters all made up for it. This is the first book I read by Kyung-Sook Shin and it was fantastic.

I, admittedly, don't know much about the history of Korea. But this book isn't so much a history of Korea as it is an analysis of identity. The entirety of the book encompasses the loss of identity from the individual scale to a national
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my word, this was stunning! I picked this up on a whim for the #womenintranslation readathon this week, and after I’d seen a fabulous review video by @mattsciarappa. It did not disappoint, and I was absolutely blown away by it!

This is historical fiction set between Korea and France, capturing the changing politics and culture of the period including the influences of China and Japan on Korea! I loved the complexity of the characters and the deftly woven plot... I was completely hooked (and
Jyotsna Sreenivasan
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On the surface, The Court Dancer is a beautiful novel about a young woman, Jin, and her relationship with a Frenchman. Yet it is also so much more. It is about how the West views non-western peoples, and vice versa. It is about how a woman in a very traditional country transcends her circumscribed role. It is about the contrast between fascination with the exotic, and true love. It is about loyalty and self-determination.

The novel takes place in the late 1800s, at a time when Korea was
Matthew Sciarappa in their Interview With an Translator | Anton Hur video on YouTube published on juli 7 2018.

Such a fascinating interview. It really made me want to read a book I would normally never pick up. The questions were excellent but the answers even better.

On a side note the editing was amazing. I could 'feel' the creators personality throughout the video.
Bogdan Balostin
I have a sweet spot for tragedy and melancholic endings. You know the type, where everything that can go wrong, it will and everyone will suffer a fate worse than death. And you'll cry because it feels like real life and not just fantasy. Yeah, I like those situations.


To balance that, I also enjoy extreme hilarity in a story. What about average stories with neutral happy feelings? Meh. Of course, as you read from the blurb or synopsis, this is not a funny story, so why did I start my review in
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
For historical fiction fans interested in courtly intrigue but ready to move on from English and European locales, here’s a novel to consider. It should also attract literary fiction readers seeking a new perspective on France’s Belle Époque, or anyone who appreciates poetic writing and themes of cross-cultural identity.

I’d purchased Kyung-Sook Shin’s The Court Dancer for the library’s bestseller collection a year ago after reading positive reviews but didn’t have time to read it myself until
Sachi Argabright
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
THE COURT DANCER by Kyung-Sook Shin (translated by Anton Hur) is a historical fiction novel set mainly in Korea during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Based on true events, this story follows a court dancer named Jin who captivates everyone who lays eyes on her. Orphaned at a young age and raised in humble beginnings, Jin gains favor with the Empress and makes her way into the royal court. One day she catches the eye of the French delegate stationed in Korea, and her life is forever changed. ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I came to this book with perhaps overly high expectations as several readers whose opinions I respect absolutely raved about it. I enjoyed this novel, there is some lovely writing, great evocation of place and there are some really emotional scenes particularly at the end. Sometimes, however, the aphorisms intruded on the flow of the narrative and on occasion there were some odd transitions between scenes where suddenly we were in a different place with no break in the writing.

I loved this book, and honestly, I didn't think I was that interested in reading yet another historical fiction book, but this one made the leap over my considerable prejudice and drew me in. For two days I was worried about this young woman as she was blown about like a leaf in the wind by everyone's needs but her own.

And I learned a ton. Again, when I think of Korea, I think of a shining modern place, and again, Kyung-Sook teaches me I'm a moron. The history and tidbits of information are
Amy Sturgis
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an engrossing novel by Kyung-Sook Shin and a triumph of translation by Anton Hur. I was unprepared for how deeply moved and involved I would become in the story of the court dancer, Yi Jin -- which is, in a sense, a story of Korea itself. The story follows Yi Jin from her discovery, training, and service in the court of the Joseon Dynasty to her life in Belle Epoque Paris, where she lives as the almost-wife of a French diplomat (and becomes friends with Guy de Maupassant), and finally ...more
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jin spent most of her life growing up in the court of the queen of Korea as an attendant and court dancer. When she is sent away to accompany the French Ambassador as he returns to Paris, she leaves behind everything she has known. The writing in this novel is exquisite and the tone of the storytelling was beautiful. If you like historical fiction, this is an excellent read.
I gave it four stars because I learned new (to me) history and people. It always makes me richer for understanding what others have been through especially in other places (France, Korea) and times. (view spoiler) I think the audio version was a little hard for me to keep track of the characters because I was not familiar with the names.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lyrical prose, sometimes too melodramatic, sometimes really boring. But good story, lots to learn about this period. Prob a 3.5 or 3.75.
Zafirah Jayy
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-5-stars
The last part got me wretched, miserable, heartbroken. But too bad i did't feel the same throughout the whole book. I think i was confused most of the time and all confusion is resolved within the last 100 page. It's like the writer cramp everything in that last part because the story somehow has to end then and there. Everything was moving too quickly.

The only problem i have with this novel is the main character, yi jin which she is portrayed as a "thing" that can be owned and is pretty much
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars, I think? I need to stop listening to audio books that I haven’t read before... ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
The more I read this year, the more I feel that this is the year of the Asian author and literature, and I am here for it. The Court Dancer is a standout among several great titles this year and Kyung-Sook Shin is a writer you should be reading.
Set in the the late 1800's in a politically tense Korea and Bell Epoque Paris, this book is beautifully written and full of heartbreak. Jin is a court dancer who's love affair
Katherine Younkin
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book follows the true story of Yi Jin, a court dancer in the palace of the Korean king and queen in 1890. Jin was brought up by a seamstress when her abandoned mother died of an illness. The seamstress' sister is a court lady, and through her association, Jin has access to the palace grounds. Jin catches the attention of the Queen who takes an interest in the girl.

Jin meets a French Catholic priest named Blanc and a mute orphan boy, Yeon who follows the priest around. Both people have an
John Stanifer
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read all four of Shin's novels that have been translated into English so far (including this one), and . . . wow. As much as I enjoyed the others, I think this is probably the most powerful and easily my favorite of the four (with The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness coming in second).

You don't have to know anything about Korean history or culture to enjoy this, but I'll admit that my knowing at least the bare outlines of what went on during this period helped me to appreciate the depth of the
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the average American knows more than I about Korea. My knowledge is limited to basics of the Korean War, that the North is militarized and that some gestures towards there have lately been made. My Kia hybrid was made there. Reading this book and the cover, I kept wondering what time the Joseon Dynasty took place. Looking it up I see that Joseon dynasty lasted about five centuries and was replaced by the Korean Empire in October 1897. The Belle Époque in France existed from the end of ...more
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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'.