Summary and book reviews of Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park

Love in the Big City

by Sang Young Park

Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park X
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2021, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

A funny, transporting, surprising, and poignant novel that was one of the highest-selling debuts of recent years in Korea, Love in the Big City tells the story of a young gay man searching for happiness in the lonely city of Seoul.

Love in the Big City is the English-language debut of Sang Young Park, one of Korea's most exciting young writers. A runaway bestseller, the novel hit the top five lists of all the major bookstores, went into nine printings, and was praised for its unique literary voice and perspective. It is now poised to capture a worldwide readership.

Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars where they push away their anxieties about their love lives, families, and money with rounds of soju and ice-cold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer. Yet over time, even Jaehee leaves Young to settle down, leaving him alone to care for his ailing mother and to find companionship in his relationships with a series of men, including one whose handsomeness is matched by his coldness, and another who might end up being the great love of his life.

A brilliantly written novel that takes us into the glittering nighttime of Seoul and the bleary-eyed morning after with both humor and emotion, Love in the Big City is a wry portrait of millennial loneliness as well as the abundant joys of queer life.

Excerpt
LOVE IN THE BIG CITY

The summer we turned twenty, Jaehee and I became best friends.

I had a funny drinking rule back then—I would do anything I was told by whoever bought me a drink—and so on that fateful day, there I was again with a man of an uncertain age in the Hamilton Hotel parking lot, sucking face. He had bought me about six shots of tequila at some basement club. The moon and streetlamps and neon signs of the whole world seemed to be shining their lights just for me, and I could still hear the strains of a Kylie Minogue remix in my ear. It wasn't important who the guy was. The only thing that mattered was that I existed with someone, there in those dark streets of the city, and that was why I was wrestling tongues with a stranger. Just when I thought the heat of the whole world was about to overflow, just for me, I felt a hard slap on my back. In the midst of my complete drunkenness I thought, A hate crime! And in full drama-queen mode, I detached my lips ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Each chapter is centered on a person or relationship significant to Young, but they cohere to form a fuller picture of the life of the novel's sardonic, flirtatious, fun-loving protagonist. Told with equal parts pathos and humor, Love in the Big City is a tender examination of young queer life in South Korea's most dynamic city. The characterization and the narrative voice are so distinct and nuanced that Young feels like an old friend by the end of the novel; someone you feel that you know on an intimate level, in spite of having only spent a little over 200 pages with him...continued

Full Review Members Only (590 words).

(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

Oprah Daily
A surprise bestseller in Korea, Sang Young Park's electric English-language debut perfectly captures the neon-lit potential of youthful nights.

New York Times
What a joy it is to see such a profound exploration of contemporary queer life — its traumas and its ecstasies throbbing in harmony. It's a shimmering addition to the recent genre of novels chronicling queer millennial malaise.

Booklist
A bestseller in Korea for being a significant (and rare!) gay novel, Park's lost-love(s) narrative is also a universal literary beacon for readers of all backgrounds.

Library Journal
A lightly comical and insightful tale...Offers readers honest characterizations of flawed individuals from different walks of life who are all looking to find contentment regardless of their circumstances. Park's writing is introspective and relatable, and the broad-ranging themes make this a good candidate for book group discussions.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A novel, told through relationships, about navigating life as a young gay man in Korea...The novel skips freely around in time, lending it a sense of propulsion and instability that feels entirely intentional. It's anchored, however, by the narrator's irresistible voice, which alternates between earnest, heartfelt emotion, and likable wryness...This book will sweep readers up in its sheer longing. An addictive, profound novel.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[S]tunning...The strength of the narrator, notably his flexibility of voice and expansiveness, carries the narrative to great heights, making this a standout among queer literature. Brilliant, glowing, and fun, Hur's translation succeeds in bringing Park's effervescent voice to English-reading audiences.

Author Blurb Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
Sang Young Park is my new favorite writer, as in his work we see life in modern Korea in what I think of as a fuller way, due to the inclusion of queer lives there. This novel is bawdy, hilarious, heartbreaking, fearless.

Author Blurb Garrard Conley, New York Times-bestselling author of Boy Erased
I am completely smitten with Young, the brutally honest protagonist of Sang Young Park's exciting new novel, Love in the Big City. This is a book that reveals its depths slowly, carefully offering details which resonate throughout the entire work. I loved growing older with Young, and I was continually surprised by his capacity for love and disappointment. This is rich, brilliant territory that will move queer literature forward.

Author Blurb Brandon Taylor, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Real Life
Love in the Big City is a light-streaked and dazzling novel about all the messy riots of young life. This novel made me want to dance all night and fall in love. Sang Young Park writes honestly, tenderly, and with irresistible humor and charm. I miss his characters already.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Contemporary Korean Literature in Translation

From Parasite to BTS to Squid Game, there's no shortage of brilliant Korean media and entertainment that has had international reach lately. Books are no exception, with Sang Young Park's Love in the Big City, translated into English by Anton Hur, being just one example. Here is a sampling of some other exciting novels that have been translated from Korean into English in recent years.

Covers of Korean books in translation

The Vegetarian, Human Acts and The White Book by Han Kang, all translated by Deborah Smith. One of the most notable South Korean novels of recent years is The Vegetarian, which got the attention of English-language readers when it won the International Booker in 2016. Two additional books by Han Kang, Human Acts and The White Book, were ...

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