Cover Image: The Last Exiles

The Last Exiles

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Member Reviews

Altogether an emotional and enjoyable read. If you like the novel Pachinko, you should give this one a try. Good writing style, but the book itself could have been a bit shorter and the story tightened up in my opinion.

Thanks Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I’ve never read a story like The Last Exiles, which is set in North Korea and China. While the underlying theme is romance, this is really a story of resilience, determination and survival in the face of appalling odds. This book, while fiction, gives a chilling insight into conditions people in North Korea live their lives. I found it very similar in many ways to George Orwell’s book 1984, though the way the stars of this show are treated leave’s Orwell’s story for dead. 
I admired hero Jin Lee Park from the moment he stepped onto the page. His bright intelligence, determination to make a better life for himself and his family, and drive to survive endeared him to me. I cheered when he escaped from a prison that was renowned for having no successful prior escapes, felt for him when he reached China and was forced into another set of challenging circumstances, and finally sighed happily when he and Suja found their happy ever after. 
Poor Suja was put through the mill. Escaping from North Korea in a bid to reunite with Jin, the love of her life, was just the beginning of her frightful journey. I don’t know whether people smugglers are as awful as depicted in this book nor whether the many questionable practices referred to really take place. The fact that they might is shocking enough to paint both China and North Korea in very unflattering lights for me. 
This story offers a chilling insight into a dictatorship. With brainwashing of the populace, ever-present fear, terror, bullying, and people spying on one another, it had me in a state of appalled horror throughout. Needless to say this meant I had to read as fast as I could to make sure it ended on the high note that it thankfully did. Well worth reading but don’t expect too many laughs.
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I was motivated to read The Last Exiles as I thought it would provide a rare insight into life in North Korea. I was right. Ann has done her research and through an engaging storyline, illustrates the many struggles faced both within the country and the hardships faced trying to defect from it. It was most illuminating. 

‘She had always been true and faithful to the Party, but a trapdoor had opened and everything she held to be true and fundamental was slipping, falling into an abyss.’

Within the borders of North Korea, Ann covers both the life of city and country, the well off and the destitute - all in all, rather confronting from wherever you stand. Whether it be the dictatorship and corruption, or brainwashing and brokers, she lays it all out for her readers to see. Told through the eyes of a young couple in love, this provided the perfect avenue to issues such as human trafficking and the ordeal of illegal immigration as examples. Quite extraordinary to consider that separated by a river, life can be so very different for those across the border in China. 

‘Back home his family was still living in famine conditions under the austerity regime, while here the average citizen ate meat, had electricity in their home and drove around in a car. There was no reason why North Koreans couldn’t live like this too. How could the Dear Leader have kept this all away from his own people? 
How could Jin have devoted his life to this leader who had banished him from his country and his family, ultimately over a sack of cornmeal?’

The two main leads work their way through many hardships, providing the perfect mode to highlight the conditions. Yes, at times some events may appear lucky or coincidental, but dive deeper and focus on what Ann is trying to convey. Suja sacrificed so much and both she and Jin exhibited such a strong determination to both survive and thrive. Their harrowing experiences so foreign and at times incomprehensible to our own. 

Overall this is a story of love and hope, bravery and fortitude and the resilience of the human spirit. Maybe too resilient, as Ann alludes to ….

‘The fabric of life in North Korea was riddled with dark holes, and yet somehow it held together. … Everyone had their losses; they knew to close up these losses and to go on with life, never speak of it again. Sometimes humans are too resilient for their own good.’








This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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The story of two people in North Korea from different sides of the fence yet dealing with similar problems that come from the regime of the Dear Leader.  A regime we just don't understand in our world where we have everything and can do anything!

This is a well written story of hope, love, hardship, losing that hope and love and then reigniting it but the process is long and hard for both Jin and Suja and it is a story that goes right to the heart. 

I was drawn into their story right from the start and thought all the characters in this book had a place and became a real part o this story.  And it shows how one mistake can change your whole world and your whole life.

This is a well written story and one that is full of emotion yet there is always a little bit of hope that keeps you reading.  My only complaint, if you can call it that, is the over-descriptive nature in parts which drew the story out a bit longer than I feel it should have been.
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