The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnston

READ FOR BOOKCLUB
Chosen by Rachel

A portrait of a world hidden from view: North Korea, rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.

⚑ “The Orphan Master’s Son reminded me of Nineteen Eighty Four, but is clearly more shockingly real. Set in the author’s imagined North Korea, the Dear Leader makes an orphan of all his people through a programme of propaganda, poverty and regimented control. ”

“The main character is a man of many identities, at first an orphan master’s son, named for a martyr Jun Doh (John Doe), he is a tunneller, a spy, a kidnapper, a man who bears the tattoo of another man’s wife before finally assuming a high ranking official’s identity to challenge the state that has always challenged him.

“It has a far-fetched storyline that includes oddities like the building of a Texas ranch in the North Korean desert for the pleasure of visiting officials and naked female rowers circumnavigating the globe, but Johnston makes the depths of his mind so believable. For amongst the hilarity and satirical obscurities is a fictional world painted against a background of fact. The laugh-out-loud vs somber contemplation ratio is perfect.

“This is a book unlike anything I’d read before and I immediately fell in love with its unique perspective and began encouraging everyone I knew to read it!” – Rachel

⚑ “The Orphan Master’s Son?  Oh my, what a book! For a whole bunch of tangible and intangible reasons it hit me in my gut and my heart!  It also made me laugh – a curious combination of humour, horror. romance, suffering, social-cultural commentary and wit!

“Set in North Korea it follows the life of the an orphaned boy Pak Jun Do and a character he later assumes, Commander Ga, in North Korea. It gives us a fictional, yet based on some truth, account of life in the Country under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il.

“What struck me most was how bleak and terrible North Korea is painted, which if only 50% true is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Torture, prison camps, extreme social control, propaganda, hunger and loss of the self. Within all of this, a love story with a moving yet brilliant ending, a highly recommended read.” – Sonya

⚑ “Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son is a compelling story set in North Korea which is as beautiful as much as it’s harrowing. I was instantly intrigued and captivated as it opened a window into the frightening and mysterious world of North Korea.

“After 7 years of research which included a trip to DPRK Adam Johnson did a remarkable job creating a novel into the dystopia of Kim Jong-ll’s dictatorship. The real Kim Jong ll known as ‘Dear Leader’ allowed many to die of starvation while he poured money into nuclear programmes. He also banished citizens deemed disloyal to prison camps and sent assassins after defectors.
“Johnson has written this novel essentially about a highly guarded unknown Korean culture. At times he veers from cold terror to surrealistic humour with ease. It is a thriller but also shows us love and sacrifice. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” – Jodie

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Published 2012
Penguin Random House
443 pages

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