'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 13 July 2013

Review: When My Name Was Keoko

Between 1935 and 1945 both North and South Korea were under Japanese control. I knew life was difficult, but I had no idea what terrible demands were made on the local people.

Linda Sue Park brings to life the reality of having your food, clothes and even household plants taken from you. How does anyone cope when their language is no longer spoken and their names are taken away?

Sun-Hee struggles to remember that she is now Keoko while her older brother does not want to conform. Although alternating chapters in the voices of younger sister and older brother can be momentarily confusing, the different perspectives each offers is gold.

I couldn’t get enough of tiny, every day details. We take bicycles for granted, but did they even exist in Keoko’s time? What do you eat when there is no more rice or even maize? Can people actually survive on chicken feed?

The explanation of Kanji characters through story entranced, the revelation of life for widows and the childless sliced through my heart, but what riveted me to the page was the simple presentation of such complicated politics between the invading Japanese, those they sought to suppress and the rest of the world during World War I.

When my name was Keoko is a must-have for anyone interested in history or how people’s lives can differ according to circumstance. Lovers of life-and-death tales won’t be disappointed, nor will those with a fascination for flying or the military.

Title: When My Name Was Keoko
Author: Linda Sue Park
Publisher: UQP, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 March 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702249747
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Fiction