‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ by Adam Johnson

It’s been a while since I mentioned my book-guru, so I thought it was about time to bring it up once more.

The occasion: I just finished one of the brilliant books she ordered me to read – yes, that’s right, I take orders now. Here’s how it happened.

We were going shopping through charity shops that afternoon. We were browsing through shirts, when my book-guru abruptly stopped in front of a bookshelf and enthused: “I can’t believe it! I couldn’t find it anywhere and here it is!”

At first, someone might think she was talking about some expensive piece of clothing or a rare collectible of some kind. Not at all. She was staring at a book and precisely ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ by Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2013.

That’s when she ordered: “Well, I’ll take it, you read it and tell me how it is”.

Half an hour later, there it was in my hands my next favorite book. Needless to say, I started reading it immediately the next day.

It’s the story of Jun Do, son of the Orphan Master and therefore raised as an orphan himself.

Through him, Adam Johnson gives us a privileged point of view into what really happens behind the curtains of one of the strictest dictatorships ever existed.

Obviously, there’s a lot of interpretation involved. As you might guess, Adam was never really allowed to gather so much detailed information about North Korea’s private life – though he had his sources.

During a lifetime – and not even a very long one, if you allow me a little spoiler – Jun Do manages to cover a great variety of roles, shifting his place into North Korean society from orphan to kidnapper, from sailor to hero and even more – but that, really you have to find out by yourself.

What’s more interesting, however, is his gradual awakening to a reality of deprivation and falsehood, which brings up feelings and teaches him a kind of love and sacrifice he didn’t know before.

Reading Adam’s novel, one thought rises above all, a parallelism quite obvious, but still interesting: if George Orwell invented a dystopic projection of the world in ‘1984’, Adam Johnson has captured that frame of world history that tells us that dystopian world is not so much of a projection after all.


If you want to know more about this book: Goodreads

If you want to buy this book: Amazon



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