The Gam Namu by Kathleen V. McLennan

This novel has been written by a Mary River Press competition awardee! Based in Korea, it spans the twentieth century from 1901 to the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Misuk, the main character, was born in Korea in 1901. She was the eldest daughter of a poor farming family and was very cherished by her family. A radical change occurred in her life at thirteen, when she spent twelve months living with her uncle’s family. This time was spent preparing her for an arranged marriage. Her uncle was generous and kind, in stark contrast to her wealthy husband who was cruel and violent. Misuk eventually returned to her birthplace in 1988 with her daughter Suni, after spending years in Seoul.

McLennan cleverly uses conversations and thoughts between Misuk and her beloved Gam Namu (persimmon tree) to trigger memories of events that have shaped her life. These are presented in an historical sequence, making it easier for readers unfamiliar with Korean history to follow. Woven throughout is an intricate web of connection to the Korean independence movement. This has significant consequences for Misuk’s family.

By following Misuk’s journey the reader gains a very good insight into Korean life through-out the twentieth century. Non-Korean readers gain a much deeper understanding of another culture. Shared similarities – love and loss; abuse and resilience; ageing, progress and resistance to change are revealed from a feminine perspective.

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