by Kwon Yeo-sun

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LoveReading Expert Review of Lemon

This fascinating, psychologically astute vignette about grief, blame and searching for the truth delivers piercing emotional depth in unique and elegant style.

Taking in the absurdities of life, misfortune and tragedy, Kwon Yeo-sun’s Lemon is an engaging, read-in-one-sitting novella of remarkable intensity. In some regards, it’s a crime novel, but one that turns the genre on its head to create an enigmatic emotional puzzle in which a woman warped by grief engages with the person she believes killed her sister.

Back in 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became called the High School Beauty Murder. There were only ever two suspects, one of whom had an alibi, while no evidence was found to convict the second, so the case was never solved. Seventeen years later, Kim Hae-on’s younger sister, Da-on, remains utterly eaten up by the murder. Her life is on hold, her mind trapped in twisted stasis. Fixated on finding out what happened to her sister, she discovers unexpected truths that strike her to the core.

Told from multiple perspectives and times, the story sparks with descriptive perfection, such as this evocation of the victim: “She was very pretty, but not in a typical way. How could I describe it? Her beauty was urgent, precarious, like the piercing wail of a speeding ambulance. I could not look away”.  It also swirls with powerful undercurrents of raw emotion - desperation, regret, longing, guilt, the brutal ripples of grief. Presented in all their ludicrous complexities, such raw states are overlaid with the mundanities of everyday life. Though short, this is an intensely gripping and profound reading experience. As Lemon ponders: “Couldn’t each moment we’re living now be the meaning of life?

Joanne Owen

Lemon Synopsis

In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.

Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she's lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.

Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on's classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021. 

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781800241473
Publication date: 14th October 2021
Author: Kwon Yeo-sun
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 192 pages
Collections: 40+ Awesome Asian-authored Novels - Brilliant Books You Need to Read from Across This Epic 48-country Continent, 50+ Novels That Explore the Wonders of Asia,
Primary Genre Crime and Mystery
Other Genres:
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Closing date: 07/11/2021

We are teaming up with translated crime fiction aficionados Bitter Lemon Press to offer a brilliant book giveaway! This book bundle will include a copy of all six 2021 releases. The titles up for grabs are: Crocodile Tears by Mercedes Rosende The Measure of Time by Gianrico Carofiglio How To Betray Your Country by James Wolff The Basel Killings by Hansjo?rg Schneider The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura The Foreign Girls by Sergio Olguín This draw is open only for UK residents currently in the UK and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once. The draw closes on 7th November 2021. Please ensure that the details you use to enter the competition will be correct at the time the competition ends. The winners will be notified as soon as possible.

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What To Read After Lemon

Edge of the Grave
Before the Fall
The Long Firm
The Last Snow

Lemon Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Lemon is a story about a crime, rather than a crime story. A nuanced story of grief and loss, compelling, with a subtle take on the role of gender and advantage in Korean society.

Kim Hae-on was a beautiful schoolgirl, murdered in 2002, her body found in the park with severe head injuries. Although there were two main suspects, no one was charged. Was it the boy on the moped or her classmate in whose sister’s car she was last seen. But did either have a motive?
This book pulls together the story in chapters set several years apart and told from different perspectives. Kim Hae-on’s younger sister, and two other classmates. All the voices are different, although the slow cadence of the story is typical of the few Korean novels I have read. There is no suspense, and no change of speed, the conclusion is a slow build up. But there is no real resolution, although by the end, the reader is not really in any doubt about who committed the crime, and why.
To say this is a crime novel is untrue, other than it is set around the murder of Kim Hae-on. It is the story of how society treats those with advantages and those without, whether that is social position, money or good looks. It is also story of naivety and loss. It is at the same time mundane and strange.
Whilst reading this I was confused as to whether I enjoyed the book or not, and even, what it was about. It is a compelling read that stayed with me, and the more I think about it the more I realise there is to the story.

Clare Topping

For readers who like a challenging and intriguing read, I’d recommend this book and credit the author (and translator) for a very well written and thought out story.

I’d seen some interesting reviews for Kwon Yeo-Sun’s “LEMON” and was intrigued enough to want to read it for myself. Translated expertly by Janet Hong, this unusually written novella focuses on the grief and aftermath of the ‘High School Beauty Murder’ of Kim Hae-on in 2002. The story is set over nineteen years and told from the viewpoints of two of Hae-on’s schoolmates and her younger sister Da-on and interspersed through various points in time. You do need to pay attention to the voices, as you’re not told who is narrating each one but although this started out as a little confusing, I was surprised by how quickly everything made sense and the narration connected. This also provided some intelligent entertainment, trying to work out for yourself who was relating their story and whether they were reliable or not.
“Lemon” isn’t a crime novel per se but does explore a murder via an emotional psychological approach which makes this a really unique read.
It’s a shortish story so therefore best to read in one sitting where possible but it does pack an emotional punch regarding the trauma and grief for a life not lived and I found it was a satisfying read all round.
For readers who like a challenging and intriguing read, I’d recommend this book and credit the author (and translator) for a very well written and thought out story.

Miriam Smith

Who killed Kim Hae-on? A fascinating, ingenious read which gives snapshots of lives forever changed by a brutal crime.

A short novel, there is a lot packed into these 148 pages. Set in South Korea in 2002, it spans seventeen years after a brutal murder. Beautiful Kin Hae-on is last seen in the car of one of the two suspects, Shin Jeongjun by the other suspect, delivery boy Han Manu. After a lack of evidence fails to convict either of the young men, the case is closed, leaving Hae-on’s younger sister Da-on to cope with the loss.
The author gives you little indication of who is leading you through the story, but you soon become immersed, building your own conclusions as to who committed the crime. It is less about the murder, more how the murder affects Da-on as she tries to keep her sister alive in the most disturbing way. There is another crime committed here, one that is almost lost in the narrative, but which is almost an afterthought. How far would you go to keep the spirit of your loved one alive? And is it revenge, retribution or just coincidence that spurs you on?
The reader is left to draw a lot of conclusions but that is fine, it works with this story without feelings of frustration due mainly to the cleverness of the writing. An unusual and engaging read.

Belle Woodward

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella by Kwon Yeo-sun, it packed a real punch in a very short space of time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella by Kwon Yeo-sun, it packed a real punch in a very short space of time and was brilliantly translated by Janet Hong.
Each chapter shows acute observation and a different slant on an unusual story which weaves expertly along. It’s written from multiple points of view and although you’re not always sure who is talking at first, you catch up quickly.
I think Lemon might be one of those books that needs to be read twice as I probably missed a lot of the subtleties first time round. I really recommend it.

Heather Byrne

A short but punchy literary thriller focusing on the mysterious death of Hae-On. Years later and still haunted by her death, can her sister Da-On finally solve the crime and move on with her life?

Lemon begins with a tragedy - it is clear right from the off that the beautiful and admired Kim Hae-On was murdered when she was 19 and her killing was forever known as the High School Beauty Murder. The case was never solved but there were a variety of suspects. This novella weaves through different female points of view including a friend of Hae-On, Hae-On's sister and also love rival. All have been affected profoundly by her death and cant move on. Kim Hae-On's sister Da-On decides to investigate and finish the job where the police couldn't.

I didn't expect this tiny novella to grip me but I was wrong! I loved the disorientating narration provided from multiple perspectives. The perspectives can seem initially very similar and it takes time to understand who is narrating leading to a sense of confusion and claustrophobia. As the story nears its conclusion some of the narrators beginning to act increasingly erratically and the secrets start to unravel.

I would recommend this to anybody looking for a literary thriller - it will keep you turning the pages until truth comes out!

Jo C

Kwon Yeo-sun Press Reviews

'A haunting literary crime story ... Razor-sharp observations of class, gender and privilege in contemporary Korea, this page turner is one for fans of Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories' - Cosmopolitan

'With taut, steely prose, Kwon burrows into the details surrounding the shocking murder of a beautiful girl. Though Lemon takes the form of a mystery and there's psychological suspense that will grip you all the way to the end, it isn't just a whodunnit. Hidden on every page are explorations of grief and guilt, how one should go on after a tragedy. It jolts with its brilliance and tartness. It's simply electric' -- Kyung-sook Shin, author of Please Look After Mother and I'll Be Right There -

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781800241473
Publication date: 14/10/2021
Format: Hardback

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About Kwon Yeo-sun

Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language. Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo's The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award. Her recent translations include ...

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