4 out of 4 stars
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This historical fiction novel tells the story of Kim Embon, a Korean nationalist in the first half of the 20th century. The narration starts with the birth of the main character, in the summer of 1912. Embon’s life starts under bad signs, in a, two years earlier, by Japan annexed Korea. His mother, Lady Sougyon, is the daughter of Prince Aansson, whose cousin rules as king, at least as much as the Japanese let him. Though Embon grows up without a father because of his mother’s poor marriage, he lives the privileged life of an aristocrat. Additionally, he is extraordinarily smart. He gets accepted for early admission at Hokkaido Imperial University in the very north of Japan. Living far away from home, without any degree, because he left highschool early, Embon enjoys his college time at the young age of sixteen. It is in Hokkaido where he finds his dearest friends: Hain Park, Ahn Yangwoo and Insoo. All four of them born in Korea want to fight for a future of an independent home country. Shortly after the main character finished his first year of studying, a few days before he wanted to leave for a visit home, the brotherly friends got separated and arrested because someone heard them talking about plans for an independent Korea and told the police. Embon falls ill with tuberculosis in the cold and wet prison cell. After his release, he stays in Seoul for the following years, gets lovelessly married and lives an aimless life of luxury. In early spring, 1932 he finally hears from his college friends again and soon joins them in Shanghai to fight for an independent Korean Government as a faithful activist.
Pejay Bradley’s The Vanished is an exceptionally good book. Though it is historical fiction, it was well researched and I got the feeling of the history being the main focus of the author. I did not notice major flaws, which left the impression of a professionally edited and reviewed book. Bradley did great work in developing the characters as well; even minor roles have been characterized sharply and interestingly. If there wasn’t much information about a person, then it was valid why that was the case. Also, if the author started a story about a supporting character, it always rounded up in the end and was created to fit in with the main narration, for example the situation when Embon’s father in-law recognizes him from an incident, the reader got to know before too (“He was the boy from the palanquin on Gahwey-dong Street.” at page 157). But I liked the most, how vivid Embon’s development was. Despite the only character, who was narrated by a first-person narrator, being Lady Sougyon, the reader got more information about the emotions, thoughts and actions of her son. Embon needed to go through many different situations and tasks and he lived extremely contrary lives, which made reading his alteration very interesting. Additionally, Bradley’s writing style is very pleasing and fluent, which made reading The Vanished a good experience.
The only negative aspect, I noticed, was the utilization of Japanese language sometimes, such as “Sodesu ka.” at page 146. I totally support the usage of foreign languages in books because it often supports the feeling of the situation, but only if there is a translation given, which wasn’t the case in The Vanished.
I did find neither any vulgar or profane words nor sexual content, which makes the novel suitable for young and old. But I recommend to read The Vanished if one has some knowledge about the world’s history in the first half of the 20th century and is interested in Korean history.
As already visible from the predominately positive aspects and the tiny paragraph about negative features, I really enjoyed reading this novel and because of the lack of weighty flaws, there is no need to deduct a star. It is a brilliant book and in my opinion it totally earns to be rated with 4 out of 4 stars.
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