Celia's Reviews > The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
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bookshelves: 2012-books, audio-book, general-fiction

I listened to this sprawling novel (over 19 hours, which is just a bit too long for an audio book really) for a book club, which hasn't occurred yet so I'm not sure how everyone else found it. I feel a bit uncertain about an epic novel set in North Korea written by an American who has made one trip to North Korea. An otherwise fairly positive review in The Guardian by Barbara Demick said, "As a journalist who has reported extensively on the country, I fear that some readers might have a hard time figuring out where fact leaves off and fiction begins" and I think that's part of my concern - a lot of the book had an air of "wow, these crazy North Koreans, isn't this just crazy" which I was uncomfortable about.

When I say sprawling I mean it - not only is this a long novel, but the narrative flops around all over the place, and I think quite a few sections of it could have been cut without it affecting the book at all, particularly in the second half, which is where the story gets particularly surreal (and is the cause of Demick's quote about readers recognising where the fiction begins). For quite a bit of the book I felt that the story lost its purpose - or at least, I wasn't sure what that purpose was. I greatly enjoyed parts of this novel, but as a whole it doesn't rise above three stars for me.
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Reading Progress

May 15, 2012 – Shelved
May 15, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012-books
May 15, 2012 – Shelved as: audio-book
Started Reading
June 1, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 9, 2012 – Shelved as: general-fiction

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