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The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel…
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The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Adam Johnson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,3312132,705 (4.06)323
Member:psutto
Title:The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
Authors:Adam Johnson
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2012), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:2013 challenge

Work details

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (2012)

  1. 90
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (kqueue)
    kqueue: A non-fiction account of people in North Korea. The hardships they endure at the hands of their government are jaw-dropping. It backs up everything in The Orphan Master's Son.
  2. 10
    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (Henrik_Madsen)
    Henrik_Madsen: Guy Delisle has based his graphic novel on his own experiences from North Korea - it is definitely also worth a read.
  3. 10
    The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B. R. Myers (bibliothequaire)
  4. 00
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (Anonymous user)
  5. 00
    Decoded by Mai Jia (Limelite)
    Limelite: Complex tales and artistic novels about individuals trapped in a tyrannical state and forced at the whim of totalitarian government to do work they are morally, emotionally and spiritually opposed to.
  6. 00
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (aethercowboy)
  7. 00
    Sons of Heaven by Terrence Cheng (booklove2)
    booklove2: Main characters have similar personalities, also they both battle regimes.
  8. 00
    The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi (alanteder)
  9. 01
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (clfisha)
    clfisha: OK not really alike except in tone. A rollicking good adventure and playful narrative structure (Mitchell is more experimental).
  10. 14
    The Cider House Rules by John Irving (suniru)
    suniru: Although the settings are wildly different,the central figure in both books is the "head boy" in an orphanage. Also, "identity" is central to both books.
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» See also 323 mentions

English (211)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All (221)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
At the beginning, I found it quite a struggle to get into this book. It all seemed so dark and sad and cruel. As it progressed, I was drawn more and more into the stifling world and had to know what happened.
I am so glad I persisted. This is a wonderful book about horror and evil and loss, all conquered, to some degree, by compassion. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Mar 29, 2017 |
incredible, highly recommend! ( )
  kate_r_s | Feb 12, 2017 |
A beautifully written and well researched novel set in the impossible virtual Kingdom of North Korea.

Easily the most frightening and intriguing country on the planet. The kind of place that makes you glad you live in Podunk, Kansas and thank god everyday that nothing ever happens in Podunk.

The book is as weird as the country must be with a convoluted and twisting plot but the characters are so vividly and beautifully drawn that the book just keeps calling you back for more.

The author spent many years researching and writing Orphan Master and it shows. Just a really thoughtful and yet compelling novel. ( )
1 vote blnq | Dec 27, 2016 |
It won the Pulitzer and it won the Rooster this year in Powell's Tournament of Books. I should have given it five stars, but it was such a challenge with its tormented depictions of finding hope and freedom in the face of despair and imprisonment of both body and soul. It's impressively good and I'm sure I will be thinking of it often, like anytime North Korea is in the news. ( )
1 vote Virginia-A | Dec 21, 2016 |
Update: I just finished my re-read of this book, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did a year ago. I think what Johnson does so well here is evoke a real sense of place. His North Korea feels like a real, lived-in place. Is the plot far-fetched? In some (many) places, yes. But the very far-fetched-ness (we're going to pretend that's a word) of the plot is one of the elements that helps transport the reader to another place. The North Korea in this book is a place where the usual rules of logic do not apply. Plausibility flies out the window, if the Dear Leader says it must.



Original review: Wow. This book is a must-read. I can't really write a great review of it because I loved everything about it. When I was a kid, and I really loved a book, I used to immediately turn back to the beginning and read the whole thing over again, and that's the impulse I have right now. A really wonderful read. ( )
1 vote gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
"Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended. "
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Susanne Wells (Nov 1, 2011)
 

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Johnson, Adamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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FOR STEPHANIE -
my sun,
my moon,
my star and,
satellite
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Citizens, gather 'round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates!
Quotations
The darkness inside your head is something your imagination fills with stories that have nothing to do with the real darkness around you.
Compared to forgetting, did living really stand a chance?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.
Haiku summary
Disturbing account
Of North Korea under
Kim Jong-Il. Tough stuff.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812992792, Hardcover)

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2012

Adam Johnson on The Orphan Master's Son

When I arrived at Pyongyang's Sunan Airport a few years ago, my head was still spinning from a landing on a runway lined with cattle, electric fences and the fuselages of other jets whose landings hadn't gone so well. Even though I'd spent three years writing and researching The Orphan Master's Son, I was unprepared for what I was about to encounter in “the most glorious nation in the world.”

I'd started writing about North Korea because of a fascination with propaganda and the way it prescribes an official narrative to an entire people. In Pyongyang, that narrative begins with the founding of a glorious nation under the fatherly guidance of Kim Il Sung, is followed by years of industry and sacrifice among its citizenry, so that when Kim Jong Il comes to power, all is strength, happiness and prosperity. It didn't matter that the story was a complete fiction--every citizen was forced to become a character whose motivations, desires and fears were dictated by this script. The labor camps were filled with those who hadn't played their parts, who'd spoken of deprivation instead of plenitude and the purest democracy.

When I visited places like Pyongyang, Kaesong City, Panmunjom and Myohyangsan, I understood that a genuine interaction with a North Korean citizen was unlikely, since contact with foreigners was illegal. As I walked the streets, not one person would risk a glance, a smile, even a pause in their daily routine. In the Puhung Metro Station, I wondered what happened to personal desires when they came into conflict with a national story. Was it possible to retain a personal identity in such conditions, and under what circumstances would a person reveal his or her true nature? These mysteries--of subsumed selves, of hidden lives, of rewritten longings--are the fuel of novels, and I felt a powerful desire to help reveal what a dynastic dictatorship had forced these people to conceal.

Of course, I could only speculate on those lives, filling the voids with research and imagination. Back home, I continued to read books and seek out personal accounts. Testimonies of gulag survivors like Kang Chol Hwan proved invaluable. But I found that most scholarship on the DPRK was dedicated to military, political and economic theory. Fewer were the books that focused directly on the people who daily endured such circumstances. Rarer were the narratives that tallied the personal cost of hidden emotions, abandoned relationships, forgotten identities. These stories I felt a personal duty to tell. Traveling to North Korea filled me with a sense that every person there, from the lowliest laborer to military leaders, had to surrender a rich private life in order to enact one pre-written by the Party. To capture this on the page, I created characters across all levels of society, from the orphan soldier to the Party leaders. And since Kim Jong Il had written the script for all of North Korea, my novel didn't make sense without writing his role as well.

Featured Photographs

Anti-tank devices seen while traveling south from Pyongyang toward Panmunj
  DPRK soldier
  Air raid sirens
  Revelutionary Martyr's Cemetery on Mount Taesong

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:15 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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