3 out of 4 stars
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The Vanished by Pejay Bradley takes readers to Korea at the time of Japanese occupation in the early 1900s. It was a period of political turmoil. People were clamoring for liberation from the hands of an oppressive regime. Amid such turbulent times, a young man of privilege was at the center of the story. As a child of an aristocratic mother, Embon’s elite upbringing prevented him from seeing the country’s sad reality. When Embon went to Japan for college, he came across a group of young students with revolutionary ambitions. Fueled by the desire to gain freedom from the Japanese control, Embon joined this group towards a dangerous gamble.
The book contains a vivid portrayal of Korean history and culture at the dawn of the 20th century. It speaks of the detriments of foreign occupation on social and personal freedom. What I appreciate the most is the depiction of the divided sentiments of the Korean people on joining the resistance. While some are willing to die for their country, some are reluctant to do the same. The need to provide for their families overshadows the desire to stage an uprising. If they die, what will become of their families they will leave behind? Such is the case with Mr. Seoh, a Korean who works for a Japanese employer. Like everyone else, he wants liberation from the Japanese. But joining the underground resistance would mean quitting his job and providing for his family is his utmost priority.
While the historical aspect of this book is pretty solid, the narrative is not without flaws. The characters’ perspectives are in the third person. Embon’s mother, Lady Sougyon, gets to narrate a handful of times through the first-person narration. It wasn’t consistent, though. At some point, Lady Sougyon’s point of view simply disappeared, giving the impression that her first-person voice was pointless.
In one instance, a character’s name appeared in the narrative without any prior introduction. It was only after a few pages that her background story followed, which felt odd. I also disliked the ending. It was abruptly delivered, making the resolution weak and unsatisfying. Regardless, Bradley’s writing was neat and professionally edited.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I did not give it a full rating owing to the narrative’s shortcomings. The author’s mastery of Korean history was evident in the book, so I did not withdraw any more stars. If you want to explore the implications of foreign occupation, and you want to be moved by a united people fighting for their freedom, this book might be for you. However, I do not recommend this to those who find the intricacies of history and cultural traditions tedious to read.
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