Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

the best modern novel i’ve read

Posted by flyingbk on 01/28/2012

From my Shelfari review of The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson:

It’s rare when a book lives up to the hype. By the time I opened the book, I had read the myriad of glowing reviews and I admit some skepticism. The doubts increased as the first 100 pages or so appeared slow and aimless. But then after that- pure magic. The love story that dominates the final half of the book is breathtaking and impossibly well-written, and the setting of a freedom-less nation only adds to the poignancy. After I finished, I had trouble sleeping as themes and characters felt woven through my brain and heart. I agree with the Daily Beast’s review: “The year is young, but The Orphan Master’s Son has an early lead on novel of 2012.”

Couldn’t have said it better! My favorite novel of all-time (I really haven’t read that many) is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (which you can read for free on the Kindle!). But this book by Johnson has easily become my favorite modern novel. I’ll try to write a longer review another time, but for now, let me excerpt one of many deliciously written parts. This takes place when a girl realizes that  Jun Do (that main character) is kidnapping her:

“My God,” she said. “You’re one of them.”
Sand blew into the bag, into her eyes.
“Believe me,” he said. “I know what you’re going through.”
“You don’t have to be a bad guy,” she said. “There’s goodness in you, I can see it. Let me go, and I’ll sing for you. You won’t believe how I can sing.”
“Your song has been troubling me,” he said. “The one about the boy who chooses to quit rowing in the middle of the lake.”
“That was only an aria,” she said. “From a whole opera, one filled with subplots and reversals and betrayals.”
Jun Do leaned close now. “Does the boy stop because he has rescued the girl and on the far shore he will have to give her to his superiors? Or has the boy stolen the girl and therefore knows that punishment awaits?”
“It’s a love story,” she said. “I understand that,” he said. “But what is the answer? Could it be that he knows he’s marked for a labor camp?”
She searched his face, as if he knew the answer.
“How does it end?” he asked. “What happens to them?”
“Let me out and I’ll tell you,” she said. “Open this bag and I’ll sing you the ending.”

Finding love in a loveless land and culture is one of the indelible themes of this novel. And there’s many, many more wonderful scenes like this one.

Read. This. Book.

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4 Responses to “the best modern novel i’ve read”

  1. Sounds great, thanks for the recommendation. Another great modern novel is The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. It’s a very interesting book about the last days of an English language newspaper in Rome.

    • Anonymous said

      Hello, thanks for the comment! I read The Imperfectionists and really enjoyed it esp. since I worked for a newspaper for 3.5 years 🙂

  2. […] Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. I love this novel so much that not only did I blog about it before, I actually read it twice last year. The first 100 pages or so are a bit of a slog, but […]

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