4 out of 4 stars
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The Vanished by Pejay Bradley was a delightful, and surprisingly educational read. It starts with the protagonist, Kim Embon's birth. He is born to a Korean prince's daughter, and we follow his life as he grows up to explore Korean life under Japanese rule. The book sets itself in a turbulent time, starting with Japan colonizing Korea, the underground resistance and March 1st movement, and the eventual transformation of Korea into a slave state. The setting of this book is rich and Oriental. The point of view shifts from Embon's mother to Mr. Seoh, a seemingly random Korean man belonging to the upper-middle class, but he has a very important role to play later in the book. Embon's mother is a single mother, very unusual for an Asian country in the early twentieth century. The book also deals with issues such as women's position in the East and the class system. The Vanished treats these issues with respect and lets the reader form their own multidimensional opinion of Eastern society.
The book is extremely well-written, with rich, imaginative descriptions of day-to-day oriental life. The pacing of the story itself is very slow, making it a great book to relax with. This also gives the author plenty of time to painstakingly world-build, inch-by-inch. It also develops its few characters marvelously, showing us their character growth as they move through life. The book is very educational about a subject many may not know much about - the Japanese occupation of Korea which lasted thirty-five years. Women are shown as hating their secondary position in society, and most take active steps to change gender roles for future generations.
Until about halfway through the book, the reader is left to wonder how the two points of view are connected, due to the slow pacing of the story. The detailed history between Japan and Korea feels a little tedious to read at times. The book also delves into a lot of Korean politics which is important to the plot. I found the detailed account of Korean political life in the early twentieth century fascinating, but some readers may find the factual nature of the writing a little boring. The attitude towards women and the class system may seem regressive to Western readers. The plot seems somewhat loosely woven and sometimes descriptions seem needless. For example, Embon's mother getting ready to see the king and his marriage are described in great detail when these events have very little to do with the actual plot.
The book was exceptionally well-edited and did not hinder reading speed with grammatical errors or typos. It did not contain any explicit or mature content besides some non-graphic violence. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, due to the author's stunning writing style and the very interesting context of the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read more about oriental life and the Japanese invasion of Korea. Not recommended to anyone pro-Japanese for quite obvious reasons.
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