It’s been two years since I read Cho Nam-Joo’s fantastic novel “Kim Jiyoung, born 1982”. For me the novel was one of the best books of 2020 and Cho Nam-Joo was a literary sensation. So, I was very excited to read her new short story anthology “Miss Kim weiß Bescheid” (Miss Kim knows) this fall. I’ve hardly ever been so curious and happy about a new release!
“Miss Kim knows” is a collection of eight short stories that address different topics but also features recurring motifs which creates a kaleidoscope of Korean society and of its women. In the eight short stories we meet mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends – and more than just one Miss Kim. They’re about aging, cyber hate, domestic violence, care work, manipulation, motherhood, sexual assault, and self-fulfilment. While the book shows many facets of society, it never loses the focus on its central topic: what it means to be a woman in contemporary Korea.
As with her previous book Cho-Nam Joo manages to capture everyday occurrences in a captivating manner. With sharp, vivid language she describes situations and creates images in her readers’ heads. Whether plum trees, Northern lights or relationships, Cho Nam-Joo’s clear words dissect the ordinary and create multifaceted and tangible characters.
Besides her clear language and the diverse topics that are being negotiated in „Miss Kim knows“ I especially enjoyed the depiction of the interpersonal relationships. Although each of the short stories only offers a limited space, Cho-Nam Joo manages to sketch palpable and recognisable characters and relationships. I was laughing and suffering with them throughout the different stories.
My personal favourite story was „The Night of the Northern Lights“ which features the fascinating relationship of an aging daughter-in-law and her even older mother-in-law. Besides the two women and the aurora the story also negotiates motherhood, work, aging, self-fulfilment, and their change throughout the different generations of the same family. (If you’ve read the book, please let me know what your favourite story was)
The book will probably not match every reader’s taste, but it did match mine. For me the different stories of the anthology were like a literary escape that had some sad parts, some beautiful parts, but finally managed to reconcile all parts to a multi-layered portray of the female experience in South Korea. Although the novel could not quite compete with its feminist predecessor „Kim Jiyoung, born 1982“ with me, I highly enjoyed this literary escape. And I cannot wait to read her next texts. Hopefully very soon.
Thank you Kiepenheuer & Witsch for this review copy! You can learn more about the book here. Have you read something by Cho Nam-Joo yet? If yes, do you enjoy her writing as much as I do?