Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop
by Hwang Bo-reum
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Pub Date 20 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024
Bloomsbury USA, Bloomsbury Publishing
The Korean smash hit available for the first time in English, a slice-of-life novel for readers of Matt Haig's The Midnight Library and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fikry.
Yeongju is burned out. With her high-flying career, demanding marriage, and busy life in Seoul, she knows she should feel successful, but all she feels is drained. Yet an abandoned dream nags at her, and in a leap of faith, she leaves her old life behind. Quitting her job and divorcing her husband, Yeongju moves to a small residential neighborhood outside the city, where she opens the Hyunam-dong Bookshop.
For the first few months, all Yeongju does is cry, deterring visitors. But the long hours in the shop give her time to mull over what makes a good bookseller and store, and as she starts to read hungrily, host author events, and develop her own bookselling philosophy, she begins to ease into her new setting. Surrounded by friends, writers, and the books that connect them all, she finds her new story as the Hyunam-dong Bookshop transforms into an inviting space for lost souls to rest, heal, and remember that it's never too late to scrap the plot and start again.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 11 members
Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on February 20th, 2024.
I loved this quiet, reflective, and ultimately upbeat book about a young South Korean woman — Yeongju — who drops out of the rat-race to open a bookshop in a quaint residential area of Seoul. This is a far cry from similarly themed American versions with sassy owners or drama gushing from every page. Instead this bookstore slowly grows a community filled with polite and kind people who help each struggle with philosophical questions of life such as: What constitutes success in life? Have we become the person we wanted to be? We meet an array of people, each taking an unusual (especially for South Korea) path through living and hear discussions of the tactics each is employing along with a self-assessment of his or her happiness.
This is a translation of a surprise best-seller from Korea whose popularity spread completely through word of mouth. I enjoyed knowing that I was reading something authentically Korean that had appealed to a non mainstream audience in that way. What I assume was a modern Korean culture permeated the behavior and reflections of each of the characters in a way I found enlightening. I also loved the writing style: Quiet. Observational. Unfiltered. The story was sweet, honest, and real and had many points of resonance for me. I loved the way people communicated with each other with simultaneous insight into each person’s thoughts and assumptions. And of course, I loved all the “action” around reading and books! Yeongju reads. At the start of the book she is reading about people who have left their old lives behind, as that is what she has just done. She reads and discusses the ideas with herself. She learns but also disagrees and in this way furthers the development of her own sense of self and purpose. She makes recommendations but is far from the know-all librarians portrayed in much fiction. My favorite request: a mother whose 18-year old son is already sick of life asks for a book that will “unclog a smothered heart.”
I loved that this book tackled deep issues with neither false cheer nor gloominess. I found it ultimately inspiring while simultaenously grounded in reality. As an aside, I really had to focus on all the Korean names as I don’t have a lot of experience with them and am happy to report that with just that little bit of focused effort, the names felt very familiar to me by the end.
“In The past, she used to live by mantras like passion and willpower, as if by imprinting the words on her mind, they would somehow breathe meaning into her life. It only felt like she was driving herself into a corner. From then on, she resolved never to let those words dictate her life again. Instead, she learned to listen to her body, her feelings, and be in happy places. She would ask herself these questions: does this place make me feel positive? Can I be truly whole and uncompromisingly myself? Do I love and treasure and myself here? For Yeongju, the bookshop checked all the boxes.”
“Yeongju loved such stories. Stories of people going through hard times, taking one step forward at a time as they seek comfort from the flicker of light across the horizon; stories of people determined to live on, despite their sufferings. Stories of hope – not the rash, or innocent kind, but the last glimmer of hope in life.“
“Yeongju’s home felt like an extension of her — somewhat lonely, but a reassuring presence nevertheless.”
“She took care and pride in writing each piece, even though it felt like she had to squeeze out every last bit of her brain juices.”
“Isn’t that what life is about? Foraging forward with the answer you have — stumbling along the way and picking yourself up — only to one day realize that the answer you’ve held onto for a long time is not the right one. When that happens, it’s time to look for the next answer. That’s how ordinary folks, like herself, live. Over our life span, the right answer will keep changing.”
“What counts as a good book? Books by authors who understand life. Those who write about family, mother and child, about themselves, about the human condition. When authors delve deep into their understanding of life to touch the hearts of readers, helping them to navigate life, isn’t that what a good book should be?”
“Small talk could be a considerate gesture, but most of the time, at your own expense. With nothing to say, squeezing the words dry leaving only an empty heart and a desire to escape.”
This book will slide over you like your warmest coziest blanket enveloping you into the small and wonderful world of the Hyunam-dong Bookshop. At the core I believe this book is about finding happiness and a work life balance and what that means for different people. The characters are so well written I felt by the end that I had made friends. I would say that this is a book club must. There would be so much to talk about. This book is perfect for fans of Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and I Had That Same Dream Again by Yoru Sumino. This is one BookTokers are going to love for the sheer reason that it was made to be annotated. There are so many beautiful quotes and moments, I can't wait to get my personal copy so I can highlight, tab, and write in the margins. 10 out 10 recommend.
This book is incredible! I've been raving about it since I first read it and even my dad went on to read this one because of how much I loved it.
Welcome to Hyunam-dong Bookshop is set in South Korea and it's about a woman who decides to quit the busy life she led in Seoul to follow her dream of opening a neighbourhood bookshop. However, the book is just as much about all of the people who frequent this bookshop, the community that is built around it.
I loved how the chapters almost felt like vignettes — because each one focused on a specific topic, from owning a bookshop and its difficulties to the shop's barista's dilemma between pleasing his parents or living a simple life. However, despite the chapters feeling very different, you do follow these characters' lives in the everyday business of a bookshop and get attached to them. I really didn't want this one to end.
Another book about books that I loved this year. You'll definitely want to check out this one!
Thank you so much to Bloomsbury for this ARC!
I can see why this was a massive hit in Korea, and I'm so glad I got to savor this heartfelt and cozy translated read!
This book touches on many topics like mental health, life changing events like divorce and finding yourself and following your dreams thereafter, the power of books/bookshops, and following your dreams. Yeong-ju was a wonderful and imperfect MC and I thoroughly enjoyed her rising from the ashes post-divorce and spreading her phoenix wings to follow her dreams. The writing was beautiful, poetic, hopeful, and easily consumed. The atmosphere and setting was cozy and easily imagined. Highly recommend this book for when you're in the mood for an uplifting read.
Tysm for letting me be an ARC reader for this one!
I liked the questions new bookshop owner Yeongju asks herself and others during the course of this book. Questions about life, purpose mix in with more practical concerns - how to make a successful bookshop, what is the purpose of reading. Her book seminar at the bookshop led by writer Jeungwoo even tackes questions about writing well. Her shop regulars include a knitter and crocheter and gives rise to the question re what such an activity might give back to the crafter.
I enjoyed the book not only for seeing how a successful bookshop could work, but also for thinking about the life questions Yeongju poses for herself and for her bookshop customers, and for the reader. Happiness vs pleasure, living for lifetime goals or living in the moment, the purpose of life. are among the interesting questions posed.