Author: Roberta (page 2 of 12)

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Orphan Master’s Son

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is an incredibly deep, complex novel. Let’s take a brief look at it from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

The Orphan Master’s Son*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: The history and culture of North Korea are mysterious. Adam Johnson pulls back the curtain, and delves deeply into the lives of leaders and regular citizens alike. It follows Pak Jun Do who eventually assumes the identity of Commander Ga, the husband of a famous actress named Sun Moon.

Some of this analysis follows the “Questions and Topics for Discussion” in the back matter of the book.

Genre

Because it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, one would assume The Orphan Master’s Son is a work of literary fiction. Although it follows some of the tenets of literary fiction, such as emphasis on themes and exploration of the inner life of the main character, it borrows from many genres. It has been called a thriller, a romance, and a work of political dystopia,  although each of these categorize only parts of the novel.

According to the back matter, the author has described it as a “trauma narrative.” He says,

“Trauma narratives are hallmarked by fragmentation, broken chronology, changing perspectives, shifts in tone, and absented moments.”

In other words, it feels as if it was written by a person who has experienced severe trauma. He says that it would be a mistake to shape it any other way and I have to agree it makes sense.

Character

The protagonist throughout the novel is Pak Jun Do. He starts out life as the son of a man who runs an orphanage. Because of this, he is often mistaken for an orphan in later life, a label that means most of the time he is treated poorly.  After spending a few years working in the total darkness of the tunnels that pass under the DMZ into South Korea, he moves on to become a kidnapper who grabs Japanese citizens and brings them back to North Korea. Climbing up the food chain, he joins a fishing boat to spy on boats and submarines from other countries. Finally he assumes the persona of Commander Ga, a confederate of the “Dear Leader.” Other, more fantastical, events occur along the way, including a trip to Texas.

In most books we expect one protagonist. In this case, however, the novel is so epic and the tones and topics change so much throughout the course, perhaps one was not enough. It might have been easier for the reader if the author had followed multiple characters and tied them together at the end.  Frankly, it strains the imagination that one person had all these things happen to him.

Setting

The novel is unique because it is set in North Korea, a place that remains largely cut off from the rest of the world. Adam Johnson has gone to great lengths to make sure the setting is a real as possible. He interviewed people who defected from North Korea, he read newspapers from North Korea, and even traveled there to see it first hand. This level of research takes the book to the prize-winning level.

The realistic underpinning makes reading it an educational experience. At one point I wondered why the North Koreans went to Japan to kidnap people when their own citizens were starving. It became clear as the novel progressed that they cherry-picked victims to perform tasks that they couldn’t, such as finding English-speakers to help teach English or stealing away particularly talented singers.

 

(Note:  this photograph was taken in South Korea -for obvious reasons)

Symbolism

We haven’t discussed the symbolism in the novels we’ve read up to now for this challenge, but symbolism is such a big part of this novel, it deserves a special mention. For just one example, when Jun Do goes to Japan, he is given expensive new sneakers so he can blend in with the locals. Later, around the time when Americans board the fishing boat he’s on, his crew mates find brand new sneakers floating in the water from a container that has fallen off a ship. They collect the sneakers at first, but throw them overboard again once they return to North Korea. What do you think sneakers symbolize?

Comments

The Orphan Master’s Son is by most accounts a difficult book to read, particularly in the beginning. There are, however, many things about it that make giving it a try worthwhile. It is particularly rewarding if you want to experience an imaginative and innovative way to handle a difficult and complex topic.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 89. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008) – Short story collection – Discussion begins April 10, 2017.

#BookBeginnings Night Watch by Iris and Roy Johansen

Today we’ve got Night Watch by the mother-son team of Iris and Roy Johansen for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you’re finished,  add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-johansen

Night Watch*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Kendra Michaels has regained her vision after undergoing a new procedure developed by England’s Night Watch Project. But when the surgeon who treated her goes missing, she gets wrapped up in an investigation of the very same organization that helped her.

First Paragraph of the Prologue:

Those chamber of commerce brochures were right on the money, John Jaden thought. It was freezing, and he was practically up to his [expletive deleted] in snow, yet surfers and sunbathers preened on a warm beach less than ninety minutes away. He’d seen them as he’d driven up the highway on his way to Big Bear.

Discussion:

This is the first time I’ve encountered an expletive in the first paragraph I was going to share. Even though it was a mild one, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Should I have left it in?  It wasn’t as strong as the one from the famous first line of The Martian.

Have you ever not used a first line because of expletives?

As a writer, I’d also like to know:  Have you ever quit reading a book because of the coarseness of the language? Even though it was appropriate for the character using it?

Otherwise, the first paragraph captures the setting very well and reveals the character’s personality a bit.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Number 90 The Orphan Master’s Son

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The Orphan Master’s Son*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Summary: The history and culture of North Korea are mysterious. Adam Johnson pulls back the curtain with this fictional work, delving deeply into the lives of leaders and regular citizens alike. It follows Pak Jun Do who eventually assumes the identity of Commander Ga, the husband of a famous actress named Sun Moon.

 

 

What did you think of The Orphan Master’s Son? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

Have you written about The Orphan Master’s Son? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

 

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 89. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008) – Short story collection – Discussion begins April 10, 2017.

Sunday Post Wrap-up: It’s About Time

It has been way too long since I’ve done a Sunday Post wrap up. That’s probably because I’ve been taking writing workshops for several weekends, plus I taught a gardening class. I don’t seem to be organized enough to prepare during the week, which some of you do.  Sunday Post is a fun meme, so I’d like to try to get my act together more often.

Otherwise, I’m in the throes of spring cleaning. I rearranged my furniture, have been organizing my books (always a major task), and even cleaned up the yard.  You should have seen the dust bunnies fly!

I have four bookcases, but they are all filled past capacity. Do you think I need another bookcase?  How many bookcases do you have?

The last two  weeks:

Karen and I have been reading The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans, which is the tenth novel from The Bestseller Code 100 challenge.

The Horse Whisperer* by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Published in 1995, it was Nicholas Evans’s debut novel. It was later made into a movie with the same title starring Robert Redford. Did you read the book? See the movie?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

I also participated in the Spring 2017 Bloggiesta. Bloggiesta is a fun way to get to all those blog projects you’ve been meaning to get around to.

october-wrap-up-post-button

Books currently reading:

The Orphan Master’s Son*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel is next for the  Bestseller Code 100 reading challenge. It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is set in North Korea.

We discussed the first paragraph for Book Beginnings on Friday.

Links to posts read and enjoyed on other sites:

The National Book Critics Circle announced the 2016 finalists. My library has copies of the two I want to read, Lab Girl and LaRose. Sweet!

 

_______________________###________________________

Today we’re joining the Sunday Post meme at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer blog.

0abf9b9e-b7ac-4d59-b451-7eb7c64ea1b9_zps47hi5hue

 

 

Book Recommendations: Six Pick’s Thriller List

Have you been in the mood for a good thriller?

Read It Forward editors Abbe and Emma give their Six Picks recommendations.

 

If you like these books, you might want to try their playlist for more titles.

Looking for more recommendations? Try The Poisoned Pen bookstore.

#BestsellerCode100: The Horse Whisperer Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of The Horse Whisperer?

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

Join us on social media:

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

#BookBeginnings The Orphan Master’s Son

Today we have The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-orphan-master

The Orphan Master’s Son*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This novel is coming up next for the ongoing Bestseller Code 100 reading challenge.  It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Summary:   The history and culture of North Korea are mysterious. Adam Johnson pulls back the curtain with this fictional work, delving deeply into the lives of leaders and regular citizens alike. It follows Pak Jun Do who eventually assumes the identity of Commander Ga, the husband of a famous actress named Sun Moon.

First Paragraph of The Orphan Master’s Son:

“Citizens, gather ’round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates! In your kitchens, in your offices, on your factory floors — wherever your loudspeaker is located, turn up your volume!

Discussion:

The first things I noticed were the exclamation points because I just read an article in Publisher’s Weekly, “Danielle Steel Loves the Weather and Elmore Leonard Hates Exclamation Points: Literature by the Numbers” According to the article’s author, Leonard Elmore says, “You are allowed no more than two or three [exclamation points] per 100,000 words of prose.” Adam Johnson is reaching his limit in the first paragraph.

What do you think of exclamation points in novels? Do you agree with Elmore Leonard?

Have you read this book? If not, consider joining us next week as we continue with The Orphan Master’s Son.

Spring 2017 #Bloggiesta Starting Post

Do you have a blog, particularly a book blog? Time to tune it up and get energized by participating in the Spring 2017 Bloggiesta running from March 20-26. Sign-ups are here.

Bloggiesta-Button

What is Bloggiesta?

Bloggiesta is an online party where you can get your blog organized, take challenges to learn new things, and — best of all — meet some awesome book bloggers!

My Spring 2017 To Do List

    • Look into the new features of the latest WordPress system and try to incorporate at least one into my Roberta Gibson Writes website.
    • Write and post a better author bio.
      1. Help! It’s at the top under “About Roberta.” It’s massive and boring. I’m thinking about making the beginning more personal and breaking up each section into its own page with links to them. Would anyone click through the links, do you think? Suggestions? Thanks to Crimson at Crimson Blogs About Books for some great suggestions.
    • Prepare for Poetry month in April by writing and scheduling three or four appropriate posts.
      • One done, two more in preparation
    • Prepare a wrap-up post for Sunday. I’ve been neglecting those.
      • The Sunday Post meme is a great way to catch up with other book bloggers. Wish I had time to read every one.
    • Update the Bestseller Code 100 Reading Challenge Book List into June.
    • Cross-post some reviews to GoodReads, etc. -Wait there’s a challenge at Blame It On the Books to do even more. I’ll have to try that one.
    • Visit and comment on other Bloggiesta participants’ blogs.
    •  Check out the Spring 2017 challenges for more ideas.

Time to get busy. Hope you all have a fun and productive Bloggiesta.

 

tuning-up-your-blog

Save

Save

Save

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

This week we’re going a bit out of order and starting with our analysis of Nichols Evans’s  The Horse Whisperer from a writer’s perspective. (The discussion for this novel started here.)

This post contains spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

About Nicholas Evans:

British author Nicholas Evans started out as a journalist and moved into film making.  The Horse Whisperer was his debut novel.

Character Development

At times it is unclear who is the protagonist in this novel, particularly in the beginning. The first scene introduces Grace Maclean, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in Upstate New York and loves to ride her horse Pilgrim. Soon after, the narration jumps to her mother Annie and her father Robert.

Grace is involved in a horrible accident which results in her leg being amputated above the knee, and leaves Pilgrim scarred and unmanageable.  At this point the story wanders away from Grace, and she is revealed to be the impact character who sets things in the story in motion. Now the main story focuses on her parent’s responses, particularly her mother’s.

In a desperate attempt to save her daughter, who has become dangerously withdrawn, Annie realizes healing the horse might be the key to her daughter’s recovery and she looks for help. She contacts Tom Booker, a man who has a magical touch with horses, a “horse whisperer.” Because of the book’s title, and frankly because he’s a really cool guy, the reader might wonder if Tom is the protagonist. No, the story more or less follows Annie. That is, except when it follows Grace. By the end, however, it is clear Annie is the protagonist.

The lack of a  prominent protagonist doesn’t hurt the story, though.  The narration flows between characters like they are actors moving on and off the stage. Whose story it is doesn’t matter as much as the story itself.

Dialogue

“Hi!”
Tom touched the brim of his hat.
“A jogger, huh?”
She made a mock haughty face. “I don’t jog, Mr. Booker. I run.”
“That’s lucky, the grizzlies around here only go for joggers.”
Her eyes went wide. “Grizzly bears? Are you serious?”

Evans does a good job contrasting Annie’s formal voice against Tom’s lightly teasing banter. He also manages to have his characters sound American without trying too hard.

Setting

Public domain photograph of Horse in Montana via Visualhunt.com

The novel starts out in Upstate New York and then travels to the wide open skies of Montana. Although he grew up in England, Nicholas Evans has spent a lot of time in United States and his familiarity with the different regions shows.

Plot Structure

From a storytelling perspective, this novel evokes a strong emotional response, but it doesn’t follow the typical rising conflict format. In fact, it is almost the opposite. Tragic events bookend the rest of the story, with a death in the beginning and a death at the end, but it is really the horrible events in the beginning have the biggest impact.

Concluding Comments:

Nicholas Evans makes some unusual choices regarding plot and characterization  in The Horse Whisperer, but in the end the powerful storytelling wins out. It is an older novel, but it feels like it has withstood the test of time.

Did you watch the movie? Some of the details were changed at the end, like Tom and Annie do not have a sexual relationship, and Tom does not die. Which ending do you prefer? Why?

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize

#BestsellerCode100: Number 91 The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

Time to start the discussion of our tenth novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. (Yes, we’ve made it to ten!)

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Published in 1995, this is probably the oldest book on the The Bestseller Code 100 challenge list. It was Nicholas Evans’s debut novel and was made into a movie with the same title.

Synopsis:  According to legend, Tom Booker can calm wild horses with his voice. Annie Graves brings her injured daughter and the family’s damaged horse all the way to the Booker ranch in Montana in the hope his reputation is real and he can help them.

Have you read The Horse Whisperer? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to take our survey.

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Horse Whisperer? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 It's A Mystery Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑