"Adam Johnson has taken the papier-mache creation that is North Korea and turned it into a real and riveting place that readers will find unforgettable," raves reviewer David Ignatius in The Washington Post, calling it an "audacious, believable tale."
Johnson's political adventure drags protagonist Jun Do through military culture, intelligence operations, political prison, and the glitter of the North Korean film industry, addressing both the gray and gloss of the country's public image.
Filmmakers have recently tried to renovate the glum reputation of North Korea. Just this week, the Melbourne International Film Festival is featuring a retrospective on North Korean film, and together with the Edinburgh film festival, included the "slick and glossy" rom-com Comrade Kim Goes Flying.
Journalism on North Korea is notoriously difficult, since the country doesn't admit reporters. Journalists from the BBC show Panorama recently snuck onto a student trip foran undercover television series that attracted significant criticism. Descriptions of everyday life like Barbara Demick's book Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, are mostly based on interviews with refugees.
Throughout July, I'll post further context on life in North Korea as questions come up from the novel. I'll also look for experts who can join the conversation.
The table of contents for The Orphan Master's Son lists two chapters, even though the novel has many sections that work like chapters. I'm splitting our reading at the section breaks.
Here's our discussion schedule:
- Week One: The Biography of Jun Do, up to #1b140_1 as a hashtag for your tweets
- Week Two: The section beginning with "Jun Do dreamed of sharks biting him" using #1b140_2
- Week Three: The Confessions of Commander Ga, using #1b140_3
- Week Four: The section beginning with "Citizens! Open your windows" using#1b140_4