Book Review: “Broken Summer” by J.M. Lee and translated by An Seon Jae

“Broken Summer” was one of my monthly free advanced copies from Amazon. The book is a bit of a puzzle – both in terms of its structure and how I feel about it.

Overall, it wasn’t a book that I would say that I particularly enjoyed – and yet I highlighted over 20 bits of text as I was reading, which is much higher than my average. This almost certainly reflects the fact that although I had issues with the story itself, the were some interesting observations about life in general and parts where I could appreciate or connect with characters.

In terms of the story, I am used to stories that are quite circular in nature from the Japanese novels that I read (not that I want to suggest that Japanese and Korean literature are necessarily similar – I’ve not read enough Korean books, in particular, to comment on that). However, for some reason, I found this one more of a struggle to get used to. Perhaps it was due to many of the chapters being very long so the story jumped around within each chapter. I’m also not convinced that all aspects of the story and characters remained consistent as the puzzle came together – but I don’t care enough about the story to go back and check.

In terms of some of the text that I highlighted, most of these I will keep ‘private’ on Goodreads, but here are a few that I noted.

No matter how happy the moment, it always passes, but if you can store it in your memory, it remains yours forever.

I like this one due to both the melancholy of happy moments not being never ending, but the hope that they continue in memories. But do we always remember them? Do we tend to remember negative things?

There was no need to fight memories while painting

I sometimes feel like this when writing one of my novels. Although they are fictional, I use inspiration from my things I have seen or experienced in some parts. Memories – good and bad – can help with that.

He was one of those people who hid his pain because he didn’t believe he would be comforted if he showed his wounds.

I like the words, though I have mixed views on it. I think the kind of wounds being discussed can be shown to some, but not others.

Her refusal felt like a denial of his entire existence. An uncontrollable rage arose within him. It wasn’t at her; it was his anger at himself for being rejected by her.

I like the way this is phrased. Although it is about love and a potential partner in that context, I think it can apply to friendships and other types of relationships too.

the most heartbreaking question was why she hadn’t even left a short note behind.

Is knowing better than the silence? Not knowing leads to speculation and the mind can open up a chasm of questions.

The fact that she wasn’t around weakened Hanjo. It was not just a feeling of emotional loss but withdrawal symptoms with physical side effects. He had indigestion, insomnia, and a lethargy that made it difficult for him to continue his daily life.

Again, I like this description and again I think it can apply to lost friendships of any kind.

Ultimately, he didn’t understand anything about her. No one can rid themselves of the memory of another person. No one. It is the same as saying no one can overcome the truth.

Nothing much to say on this other than I agree with it.

It is always difficult to connect a person with a fictional character, since all fictional characters undergo such extensive embellishment.

I’m going to have to give some further thought to this as I often find it is easy to connect with fictional characters – perhaps too easy and that’s a problem in itself.

Novels may reflect reality, but they cannot replace reality.

I agree, but I don’t think the relationship is one way. I think novels can impact reality too.

For anyone who has lost their desire for life, death is neither punishment nor revenge, only an inappropriate kind of mercy.

I totally agree and something I have thought about over recent months for one reason or another.

As I noted earlier, I really wouldn’t say that I liked this book overall, but it did have some good bits and observations on life.

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