With his three critically acclaimed novels, Chang-rae Lee has established himself as one of the most talented writers of contemporary literary fiction. Now, with The Surrendered, Lee has created a book that amplifies everything we've seen in his previous works, and reads like nothing else. It is a brilliant, haunting, heartbreaking story about how love and war inalterably change the lives of those they touch.
June Han was only a girl when the Korean War left her orphaned; Hector Brennan was a young GI who fled the petty tragedies of his small town to serve his country. When the war ended, their lives collided at a Korean orphanage where they vied for the attentions of Sylvie Tanner, the beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary wife whose elusive love seemed to transform everything. Thirty years later and on the other side of the world, June and Hector are reunited in a plot that will force them to come to terms with the mysterious secrets of their past, and the shocking acts of love and violence that bind them together.
As Lee unfurls the stunning story of June, Hector, and Sylvie, he weaves a profound meditation on the nature of heroism and sacrifice, the power of love, and the possibilities for mercy, salvation, and surrendering oneself to another. Combining the complex themes of identity and belonging of Native Speaker and A Gesture Life with the broad range, energy, and pure storytelling gifts of Aloft, Chang-rae Lee has delivered his most ambitious, exciting, and unforgettable work yet. It is a mesmerizing novel, elegantly suspenseful and deeply affecting.
THE JOURNEY WAS NEARLY OVER.
The night was unusually chilly, the wind sharpened by the speed of the train as it rolled southward through the darkened valley. The cotton blanket June had stolen was large enough to spread as a tarp and at the same time wrap around her younger brother and sister and herself, but it was threadbare and for brief stretches the train would accelerate and the wind would cut right through to them. It had not been a problem the night before but now they were riding on top of the boxcar, as there was no more room within any of them, even as the train was more than a dozen cars long. A massive phalanx of refugees had met the train at the last station, and in the time it took her siblings to relieve themselves by the side of the tracks they had lost their place and had had to climb the rusted ladder between the cars, June running alongside for fifty meters until her brother was high enough on the rungs so she herself could jump up and on.
With his most powerful prose yet, Lee shows us that war damages people far beyond any other kind of abuse life offers and that persons damaged by the losses, violence and displacement of war will go to great lengths to work out either retribution or salvation... If I could, I would make the book required reading for politicians, diplomats, world leaders and arms dealers, though many of them would possibly not get the message.
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
Full Review (906 words).
A Memory of Solferino, by Henry Dunant appears over and over throughout The Surrendered. Sylvie acquired the book from her parents and brought it with her to the orphanage in Korea. She is pictured reading it many times and June eventually steals it from Sylvie. It is the impetus for June's final pilgrimage. Though it is out of print, A Memory of Solferino can still be found through used booksellers and, at the time of writing, was available online here.
The Battle of Solferino was fought as part of the longer struggle for unification within the Italian peninsula during the nineteenth century. Before then, Italy as we now know it was divided between France, Austria, Spain and numerous small Italian principalities.
On June 24, ...
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