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Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo

Tongue (edition 2009)

by Kyung-Ran Jo, Chi-Young Kim (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8317145,226 (3.14)18
Authors:Kyung-Ran Jo
Other authors:Chi-Young Kim (Translator)
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2009), Paperback, 212 pages
Collections:Attempted to read but quit
Tags:library book, fiction, attempted

Work details

Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo (Author)

  1. 20
    Out: A Novel by Natsuo Kirino (bookcrushblog)
  2. 00
    The Taste of a Man by Slavenka Drakulic (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Obsessive love and jealousy can have some rather weird results!
  3. 00
    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (infiniteletters)
  4. 00
    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (freddlerabbit)
    freddlerabbit: another book that dwells on recipes and food in the middle of a stormy love tale
  5. 00
    After Dark by Haruki Murakami (freddlerabbit)
    freddlerabbit: Jo's style has been compared with Murakami's - I disagree, but the work Tongue bears the most resemblance to is After Dark.

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» See also 18 mentions

English (16)  Dutch (1)  All (17)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I bought this for a friend who is moving to South Korea. I found it very difficult to find fiction about South Korea that was either contemporary, or about something other than conflict with North Korea. So when I came across this story, it seemed perfect. The chef protagonist is getting over a recent breakup, and the story explores how she rebuilds her life through food. It sounded almost "like Eat, Pray, Love" except through cooking! And with such a low price, I felt I couldn't go wrong.

While the author (and perhaps the translator?) certainly has a gift with words and description, that was one of only two things I enjoyed about the story. The second is the way that the narrator peppers the audience with little facts about the history of food. For example, while making tiramisu, Ji-won explains that it means "pull me up" in Italian, because of the effects of the expresso in it.

But sometimes these points went a little too far. I felt uncomfortable reading parts of the story... I didn't understand Ji-won's relationship with her mentor, which included a strange sexual/nonsexual? moment of body contact that came out of nowhere and had something to do with the mentor losing his daughter at a young age. I almost felt like that part could have been a story in itself, were it fleshed out and explained a little more.

Ji-won and her Chef mentor aside, there are few other characters. Her ex, the dog they shared, the ex's new girlfriend, Ji-won's uncle, and a friend of Ji-won's are really the only others. While her ex and his new girlfriend were obviously necessary, since this story is about Ji-won's life after the breakup, Ji-won's friend seemed unneeded. The uncle seemed only to be included as another link to family. Her grandmother is often mentioned as being the one who taught her how to cook, though the old woman passed away many years ago. Don't even get me started on the dog. All I'll say is that this is not the book for animal lovers, as the dog is continuously neglected.

To end, I have to say that I'm not sure who this book *is* for. Those who appreciate the delicacy and beauty of language may, since the writing is at times simply a pleasure to read. I want to say that those who enjoy food and cooking will enjoy it, especially since such a wide variety of foods and ingredients are mentioned throughout. But then again, sometimes one can take food a little too far, which Kyung Ran Jo's character does. I almost gave up reading it several times, but managed to stick it out and finish the entire book. Of course, now I feel the need to read something completely different--something with snappy dialogue and humor, with adventure or romance or action. All of which would be the opposite of "Tongue." ( )
  Kegsoccer | Jan 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's hard to review this book since I couldn't finish it. I guess that is the danger with early review copies. However, I think that comparisons to Murakami are a little premature.
  limerts | Jun 6, 2011 |
I read it and had to leave it for a while so I could linger over what I had read. I had to give my brain time to process and understand what exactly it was that I had ingested. To digest, so to speak. Excuse the layered pun. Anyway, I know that the author has been accused of plagiarizing the book but since I don’t know much about the issue, I will review the work simply based on what I read and indeed, how I felt about it. Tongue, I might say, is a work of genius. I say this almost unwillingly because, no matter what others say, Kyung Ran-Jo’s style is not (and perhaps never will be) comparable to Haruki Murakami’s. I think both authors have a distinctive style and voice. Tongue is, for the most part, a narrative – a monologue – a soliloquy – in the utter destruction of a person, Ji Won, after she is dumped cruelly by the man she loves more than anything and anyone in the world. Her love is closely tied to and reflective of her passion for food and with the breaking of her heart, Ji Won loses the thing most essential to a chef, her taste. Then she regains it but the novel isn’t too clear on that. The prose is rich with the mention of various personalities and figures in history and their various food preferences. Recipes are sprinkled across the pages, sometimes absently and unconsciously. Reading this book feels like gorging oneself, much like a hedonist, on food. And yet, the lonely voice of the narrator gives the reader first row tickets to her sadness and bewilderment. The flailing relationship the protagonist has with her ex-boyfriend’s dog is reflective of her own struggle to retain her sanity. The book narrates some of the most cruel acts carried out against animals for the sake of gourmandism and the reader flinches at the nonchalant tone in which these acts are described. But the most shocking part is the ending. The ending that is true to the title and leaves the reader with a feeling that is largely disgust but sprinkled liberally with an unwilling admiration. For that, I give it 3.5 stars. ( )
1 vote Nafiza | Aug 5, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Kyung-Ran Jo's novel "Tongue" is a slender volume that provides a glimpse into the pressured lives of 21st Century Koreans. 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Korea is still divided. Massive armies on both sides of the border are trapped in a perpetual ceasefire. There is no true peace. Seemingly in response to this existential threat, South Korean popular culture is actively exploring the horror genre.
This Korean trend seems to be much like the horror and science fiction films, books, and comics that filled 1950's America as the country dealt with the threat of a nuclear war between antagonistic superpowers. Kyung-Ran Jo's "Tongue" begins innocently with light philosophical ruminations on cuisine and food preparation then eventually leads to a predictable denouement. For me the novel is most interesting as a document of a historical moment. Even so, Kyung-Ran Jo is a writer to watch. ( )
  greggchadwick | Aug 4, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I don't like to review books I did not like. I have won several books from early reviewers and have loved all of them...but not this one. However, they keep asking for the review. I did not like the writing or the subject matter. Usually I love books of other cultures...not this one. ( )
  heathersblue | Dec 28, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Food is a well-traveled literary metaphor, but here, in a translation by Chi-Young Kim, Jo does marvelous and disturbing things with it, serving up dishes rich with a variety of feelings.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo, Kyung-RanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kim, Chi-YoungTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Large pupils, tinted charcoal and light brown.
The most important thing in a kitchen isn’t how delectable the food is but how happy you are while you’re there.
Love is like cutting a word into the back of your hand.
The one thing we know about sorrow is that it's a very personal, individual feeling.
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