TSS – A big disappointment

I’ve mentioned a couple of times the Color Trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa and usually along with a mention of how much I was enjoying it.  Unfortunately, since I’ve finished the third one in the series I’ve become completely disillusioned with the coming of age story about a young girl,  Ehwa, a hundred years ago or so.  What’s interesting is that I only started feeling this way after I found out that the author is a man.

Forgive me for my uncertainty – Kim is a name that, at least in the US, can be female or male, and the author photograph is a little ambiguous.  So while there were some things about the manwha (Korean comic) that bothered me, the fact that they were coming from the perspective of a woman and it took place in a time where focusing on your marriage prospects was really what you had to look forward to, let me give The Color of Earth a favorable review.  I still don’t necessarily fault the trilogy for the focus on marriage – that probably was the focus of young girls during this time period.  However, now that I know the author is a man, I’m much more uncertain about the way he portrayed the female characters in the Color Trilogy and disagree completely that he writes beautifully from the perspective of a woman.

Eventually,  the little things that bothered me in the first book got worse and worse.  What seemed charming in The Color of Earth, like the overly poetic language, seemed overdone and unrealistic.  But most of all, there were parts that were downright offensive, that no amount of historical setting could correct.  If I sat down with Kim Dong Hwa and told him my concerns, if he defended himself with the setting and difference in time period and culture, I would remind him that even if your setting isn’t modern, your readers are.   There are certain things that are inappropriate, and honestly were probably inappropriate by any standard, not just modern ones.  Also, there should be consistency.  I don’t understand how Ehwa and her mother could be so forward thinking in many ways and yet so backwards in others.  Ehwa seems to understand sex and certainly how her body works, but then is mysteriously naive at other times.

Was this comic realistic?  No, I don’t think so.  It seemed like the author was confused about whether he wanted to be faithful to the time period or if he wanted the setting simply for aesthetic purposes.  And let’s take a break to talk about aesthetics: the Color Trilogy is beautiful and well drawn.

What really intrigues me about this whole experience is the fact that I wasn’t upset by these aspects when I thought they came from a woman.  Why?  Should I have been?  Was there less offensive language and situations in The Color of Earth, so maybe I only noticed it more after I realized the gender of the author?  If the author was a woman, would that make any of what was so disappointing about the Color Trilogy less disappointing? I don’t know.  It’s impossible to say, but I know that I won’t be recommending these books anymore.  There’s just a lot here that I wouldn’t want younger girls reading.  I know that there are a lot of people out there who enjoyed these books, so give them a try and form your own opinion, but I’m going to be returning these to the library without looking back.

TSS – 8 August 2010

Books  read this week – reviews pending:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier & The Color of Heaven by Kim Dong Hwa

Posts this week:

Fat Cat and Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Currently reading:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Happy Sunday!

Tying up loose ends

Come tonight at midnight, it will be a new year.  Time to start keeping track of my books in a new spreadsheet, time to officially begin reading challenges.  I have quite a few book reviews to write from books I read in 2009, but I’d like to keep all my 2009 reviews in 2009, so here goes!

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy reading Shiver as much as a I did.  This novel is as much atmospheric as anything; Stiefvater creates the cold, winter landscape beautifully and I loved the sparse prose.   There has been a lot of controversy around this book, though I’m not sure why.  I’m sure those who love Twilight, will love Shiver. Maybe they’ll even appreciate the more skilled writing and beautiful language, which is why I bought this book for my sister for Christmas.  The biggest complaints seem to be Grace’s lack of independence and a couple mentions of Grace’s parents.  It is really convenient that Grace’s parents are never around, but at least Stiefvater attempts to weave this into the story with Grace’s frustration with her parents absence.  After reading the complaints about Grace, I was very prepared to feel the same way, but I was surprised.  I thought Grace was very independent, not perfect, but sometimes I want to read a novel about an all-consuming passionate love.  Okay?  All in all, I thought Shiver was decent, if not perfect.  The plot could have used some cleaning up, the conflict was kind of boring to me.  But I know my sister (14) will love it, so that’s all that really matters.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier is an exercise in form that also doesn’t lose important characterization or plot.  Even though I knew the plot and the fact that Micah is a liar, I was still unprepared for the twists and turns this novel surprised me with.  I literally shouted out loud when certain things were revealed.  It seriously was nothing I was expecting, even though I’ve been following the novel since its release earlier this year.  I really appreciated that!  Highly recommended.  This was also a gift for my sister.  She read it in under 24 hours on Christmas day and really loved it as well.  Over at the blog Fledgling, Zetta Elliot compared this book to works by Octavia Butler and it seems really appropriate (and definitely a high complement) and I completely agree with it.  If that doesn’t get you reading this novel, I don’t know what will.

How to Ditch Your Fairy, also by Justine Larbalestier, was a very enjoyable novel that I gave to my younger sister for Christmas because I thought she would appreciate the sports aspect.  My favorite thing about this novel was the alternative reality that the book is set in.  Everyone goes to a special high school based on your talents.  For example, the main characters attend a sport school, where all of their classes are focused on sports: sport medicine, the economics of sports, the business of sports, the literature of sports.  It’s really a clever idea and one I wouldn’t mind seeing in the real world one day.  Some people even have fairies, though some people just call them luck.  Charlie has a parking fairy, so every car she rides in ends up with the best possible parking space, and she hates it. She hates it so much she hasn’t ridden in a car in weeks in an effort to get rid of her fairy.  In this alternative reality all skin colors, cultures and sexual orientations are normal, but it’s not necessarily a big deal in the book.  And it’s not necessarily a perfect world either, which is just as important.  Highly recommended!

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is beautiful.  There are no words in this story, instead it is told in a series of intricate, unbelievably lovely pictures.  It is the story of immigration, of entering a foreign world and trying to fit in there, told through a fantastic conceit.  Go get this one, you won’t regret it.  Savor it slowly and really appreciate its  beauty.

I loved loved loved this graphic novel.  Everything about it was beautiful.  Ehwa is a young girl who is slowly discovering what it means to be a woman and have a woman’s body.  Set in a timeless Korea, she lives with her widowed mother in their inn.  I can’t wait to read the next in the series because this was really wonderful.  There are so many wonderful scenes that I could have picked  to show you, but I love the melancholy nature of the drawing above.

Well now I’m all caught up and ready to start anew and fresh.  Anyone else trying to pick the perfect book to be their first read of  2010?  I think I’m going to read Anne of Green Gables.  Happy New Year everyone!