Still Life with Rice

StillLifeRiceS

Still Life with Rice, by Helie Lee, Simon & Schuster, 1996, paperback ISBN 0 684 82711 5

Some books stay with you long after the reading. Some send you back to them, to dig into again and again. Some inform your understanding of a country or a person - or a people.

This book is like this.

Having travelled to South Korea several times, my admiration for the people who had gone through so much over centuries and still have managed to regrow their country and achieve so much in recent decades has always been high. But without a common language it has never been possible to talk to anyone there in a deep and meaningful way. To discover what it had been like - what it is like, now. 

This book written by a young American woman who discovers her Korean legacy through her indomitable grandmother is the peephole I had been waiting for, the crystalisation of a small understanding.

It is a poignant book, full of hope and loss. The book is written as if by Helie Lee's grandmother and it recounts the heartbreak she endured when tragically separated from her son, Yoongwoon as the rest of the family fled, leaving him partitioned behind them in what became North Korea. It's a plight repeated many times in thousands of Korean families, but none the less (perhaps more) moving because of this.

I bought my copy at a bookstore in Seoul airport on leaving the country after one visit. I wish I had read it before my trip. Still Life with Rice may not be available in bookstores but you will find it online or in libraries.

Available from Amazon.

 

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