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Lemon

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

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

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

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Reader Reviews

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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.

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.

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.

Belle Woodward