Today I’m reviewing a rather unusual book translated from Korean: Miracle On Cherry Hill by Sun-Mi Hwang.
How do you feel about translations?
In general I don’t like reading a book translated from another language. It’s as if there’s an invisible barrier between me and the writer, as if I sense sometimes that the translator didn’t capture the precise meaning or emotion that the writer intended.
Despite this, however, I thoroughly enjoyed Miracle On Cherry Hill.
That might have had more to do with the fact, though, that the original text is quite unusual.
For a start, it’s a little book (192 pages). And it would seem that Korean writing is quite different from western writing. There are no spare words, little description – certainly not the florid descriptions that so many western writers indulge in – and little in the way of those gentle transition phrases and words that take the reader from one sentence to the next.
That sounds as if it would result in abrupt and charmless prose, but it really doesn’t.
What you’re left with is a simple tale, a modern-day parable that feels timeless. It’s about Kang Dae-Su, an elderly man returning to his childhood home. He’s dying from a brain tumour – “Sir Lump” – and yet arrives full of pride and self-importance.
He’s cranky and intolerant – of his neighbours, the neighbourhood children, and of their apparent free use of the extensive estate he bought years ago and has never occupied.
He cracks down on it all, and as the story progresses we see the impact this as on them – and him. We learn more of his backstory, and how it relates to those around him, with echoes through the subsequent generations.
It’s a charming little book, with an enchanting cover, by an author who I would read again.
The cover announces a previous number one international bestseller in “The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly”. Who could resist that?
“Miracle On Cherry Hill” by Sun-Mi Hwang is out now in Abacus Paperback Original.
For more book reviews from the “Friend” team, click here.