Cover Image: Beasts of a Little Land

Beasts of a Little Land

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I appreciate the pieces about Korean history and the overall span of the book. It is difficult to read as it is heart-breaking and raw. The human suffering and survival is definitely worthwhile to write about!

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This was a heavy, yet beautiful read. While not your regular happy ending type.of book, it brings you on a long journey showing how a simple action can cause multiple lives and generations to intertwine in both good and bad ways.

I'll be thinking about this book for quite some time.

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"Beasts of a Little Land" captivated me from start to finish. Juhea Kim's storytelling digs deep into the struggles and triumphs of characters navigating a turbulent historical backdrop. The characters felt like friends, their stories hitting home with raw authenticity. Kim's writing is not just about the plot; it's an emotional journey that explores hope, resilience, and the unbreakable bonds that define us. This novel left an indelible mark on my heart, a testament to the power of a well-told human story.

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"Beasts of a Little Land" is a gripping debut that weaves an intricate tale of love, war, and redemption against the tumultuous backdrop of the Korean independence movement. The story takes you from the snowy mountains of occupied Korea to the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang, and the characters are as unforgettable as the landscapes they inhabit. Juhea Kim's immersive storytelling and compelling characters make this book a great read for anyone looking for a historical epic filled with heart and great characters.

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“Life is only bearable because time makes you forget everything. But life is worthwhile because love makes you remember everything.”― Juhea Kim, Beasts of a Little Land.

Juhea Kim’s first novel tells a story of friendship and forgiveness during Korea's fight for independence. The novel begins in 1917, when a captive a Korean hunter saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their destinies are connected, laying the foundation for an intricate saga spanning five decades.

Central to the narrative is Jade Ahn, a young girl from a poor rural family who is sold to Miss Silver’s courtesan school in Pyongyang. She forms a deep friendship with an orphan boy named JungHo, who ekes out a living begging on the streets of Seoul. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a celebrated courtesan and movie star.

The novel unfolds through the skillful storytelling of Juhea Kim, a Korean-born writer with a Princeton education. I gained a better understanding of Japan's occupation of Korea during WWII. The novel sheds light on the Koreans’ unyielding determination to break free from the yoke of oppression.

Particularly intriguing were the insights into the life of a courtesan within a culture that holds many in reverence. I didn’t know they used pulverized, powdered seashells on their faces. I always thought it was rice powder.

While the novel’s intensity and depth were gripping, the pacing occasionally led my thoughts to wander. The abundance of detail, while enriching the narrative, also contributed to its slower rhythm. The myriad characters further challenged my engagement, sometimes leaving me disoriented.

A tragic and somber tone marks this haunting tale, which explores themes of unrequited love, dire poverty, and the harsh realities of Japanese occupation. A word of caution for the sensitive reader: the book contains unsettling instances of violence, including rape, assault, and murder.

Author Juhea Kim is off to a good start in her writing career. Beasts of a Little Land is perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee, Lisa See, and Amy Tan. I suggest reading this novel rather than choosing the audiobook. The narrator is terrific, but the characters are hard to keep track of. 4 stars.

** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this novel. The opinions are my own.

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This started out strong but got a tedious as I kept reading. Ultimately, I felt it was overplotted and not what I was expecting. Sorry.

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This is a stunning debut that spans a long historical period of time in Korean history. It focuses on certain characters and their interactions as they go through notable moments of history. We travel in time and location with these characters and can see how they change both in terms of character development but also by seeing what shapes their motivations and interests. There is beauty in seeing all of these important moments for a person and is what personally interested me the most.

That being said, there were still pacing issues. Some events or periods are given great detail and we can really see it unravel, but some (especially towards the end) are skimmed through. Although I imagine this is to reduce the length of the book understandingly, there was a definite whiplash effect when encountering these passages.

There was also less interplaying than I expected but it really isn’t so simple to just say that. It’s a difficult balance to strike as due to the good number of people we’re following, not having them meet at some points makes it seem too isolated, too fragmented. However, having them meet too much can come off as borderline illogical and too convenient. It needs to be natural yet impactful. Certain characters do meet a lot, which leads to the interplaying I mention, and while it is a bit illogical I actually did enjoy most of it. But there were other characters where I believe it could be more poignant and that’s what I wanted more of ultimately.

Despite these slight negatives, I still really enjoyed this book. The characters and plot enraptured me and I loved the meandering yet expansive timeline that this book encapsulated.

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A very solid debut and one that covers a time period and region that hasn’t been well-addressed in historical fiction until recently. I felt kept at arm’s length for most of the book though, and had a hard time connecting with the characters as I felt there might be an opportunity to.

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Oh my, what a heart breaking wonderful story. It shows life in all its messiness. It is a debut book and I thought very well written.

Jade is sold at a young age to a woman to be a courtesan. We follow her life story and the friends and lovers that she has throughout. It spans from 1918 to 1965.

During this time we are taken through Korea's fight for independence from Japan, the communist era, into the Korean War and after. We see through the eyes of multiple characters the heartache of real life.

I wanted this book to end so differently. I felt a range of emotions reading it. Kim had great character development on all the characters, I thought. I recommend this book.

Published December 7, 2021

Thanks to Netgalley and Ecco for the Kindle Version of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

😊 Happy Reading 😊


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This is a challenging read in that it is not a happy book, Beasts of a Little Land presents a new perspective on the 20th century in Korea. Journeying from 1917 to 1965, we follow the lives and loves of many immersive characters. This is, at it's core, a story about the ties that bind us.

I was excited to read a book by a Korean author, and I can appreciate a story that lacks a happy ending. The book does contain detailed descriptions of violence and rape, so I would consider your own trigger warnings prior to reading.

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In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

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I was really enjoying the first part of this book. It contained rich historical detail, a cast of characters I enjoyed reading about, and it was easy to follow despite quickly moving through years.

By about 50%, I was still enjoying the historical details, but the characters lost my interest a bit. I did enjoy seeing some of them reconnect and reading how their stories ended.

Read this one if you like sweeping historical sagas that take place over decades amid wartime. Skip if you don’t like multi-POV or multiple timelines.

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I picked this book out knowing I knew little about Korean culture or history. This book was an eye opening experience. Heartbreaking, irritating and unsettling to say the least. My emotions were all over the place. An absolutely breathtaking read! I received this book free for review.

I just reviewed Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim. #BeastsofaLittleLand #NetGalley

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We know very little about the history between Japan and Korea. This books gives the read a good basic knowledge. Although somewhat "wordy" , and some shallow characters, it is interesting from a historical point of view..

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A fabulous read for those looking to learn more about Korean history and lovers of epic tales spanning generations. Though it wasn't a quick read, so glad I gave myself time to fully get lost in the story and spend time with these characters. Ultimately a very heartwarming read.

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“But wild beasts had never frightened her—it was the humans who terrified her with their savagery.”

For fans of The Mountains Sing or The Night Tiger, Juhea Kim's Beasts of a Little Land is both stunning and gutting. The story offers so much—a unique cast of characters, rich historical detail, a sweeping plot line with the feel of an epic, elemental truths of the human experience—it was impossible not to love it. It also covered the history of a place and time period with which I was not previously familiar, which never fails to make a piece of literature more valuable to me.

Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book!

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A beautiful story that shares the love for your fellow man and how people can be drawn together by similar circumstances. A poor Japanese hunter rescues a military officer from a tiger in Korea. This becomes a bond between the two men for generations. The book follows the men and their families for roughly 50 years. Not a quick read but so heartwarming.

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I thought this was a very good debut novel. Writing a narrative that spans decades is no easy feat. This isn’t the best attempt I’ve read, but it’s solid. Sometimes I felt like things got skimmed over, and it was kind of disorienting to revisit a character years later. I felt like we got so much of Lotus and Luna in the beginning, but then they dropped off when I wanted to glimpse more of their stories.

Overall, this story is beautiful, heartbreaking, and bleak at times- fully reflective of life. There are some gorgeous, gorgeous sentences and paragraphs throughout. I will totally read more of Juhea Kim’s work in the future.

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To be completely honest, my repertoire of historical Asian fiction thus far has only been Amy Tan novels. I'm so glad I picked this one up! My knowledge of Korean history is sorely lacking, so I enjoyed learning about it. A well-written and wonderful book!

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A fantastic history through novelization that charts the chaos of the Korean peninsula over a half-century. The novel within this history charts the path of two different lives as they live and learn through years of upheaval. Telling the story this way expertly allows us to grasp the micro while we move through the more familiar history of the macro.

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