An espionage adventure that focuses more on its protagonist’s emotions and concerns than on James Bond–style aspirations.



In the 1960s, a teenage girl is caught between North and South Korea when she agrees to be a spy for Seoul and go behind enemy lines in Park’s (When a Rooster Crows at Night, 2004, etc.) thriller.

Miyong is an 18-year-old war orphan in a work group on a South Korean island in 1967 when she accidentally stumbles across a battalion of disguised North Korean commandos. It’s just one of many secret North Korean attempts to commit assassinations and acts of terrorism and sabotage. She tells South Korean authorities, who use her information to kill all but one of the marauders. As a reward, they promote Miyong to a military-secretary post. She’s still dangerously naïve, however; soon, she’s badly compromised by Jongmi, an old friend who’s now the mistress of a North Korean spymaster. Jongmi tries to entice Miyong north of the 38th parallel with the lure of a reunion with relatives there. South Korean and American forces give Miyong a chance to redeem herself by training her in spycraft for a perilous rescue mission, which involves infiltrating a prison compound in the north. The operation also offers a tantalizing hint of a reunion with her parents, whom she thought were dead. Park tells a Cold War tale which has more of a sense of spiritual desolation than is typically found in spy thrillers. The heroine’s odyssey through the harsh, half-starved dictatorship of Kim Il-Sung is indeed an Orwellian nightmare. But the author is also willing to portray South Korea’s weaknesses and drawbacks, especially regarding their alliance with the Americans in Vietnam. She writes with empathy for Korean families, who were not only split by civil war and ideology, but also battered tragically by the imperial ambitions of Japan, China, the Soviet Union, and the West. The author’s prose is simple, direct, and effective throughout, eschewing pedantic detail. There are some religious elements, but Park never handles them in a preachy manner.

An espionage adventure that focuses more on its protagonist’s emotions and concerns than on James Bond–style aspirations.

Pub Date: March 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4697-6908-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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