Thursday 11 March 2021

Book Review: Forgotten Reflections by Young-Im Lee

Forgotten Reflections A War Story by Young-Im Lee book cover

Dare to dream in the midst of war.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul the villagers have been starving for as long as they can remember. Their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them as they are finally forced out of the Peninsula. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul and Jung-Soo dream of what their future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and Iseul has fallen for an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Men are conscripted and rice is taken to feed the growing army as the Peninsula is thrust into an international war that would determine if the strategic region will become communist or democratic. With nothing but the news of death and hunger awaiting the village of women, children and the aged, Iseul musters up whatever hope she has left to bring the village together to make paper. Soon, the village once known for its rice, becomes famous for its paper, becoming a beacon of hope for their battle-worn soldiers awaiting letters from their loved ones.

Yet spies and communists continue to roam South Korea, turning neighbours and families against one another. For years, Jung-Soo has been suspicious of his father’s allegiances. With a series of mysterious revelations about his father, Jung-Soo is forced to choose between his tainted communist past, and the future he hopes to have with Iseul after the war. 

Set across many years and spanning decades between past and present, Forgotten Reflections: A War Story is a sweeping tale of love, loss, and determination.

The majority of the novel is set during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Told from multiple perspectives, it shares the stories of soldiers on the front lines and their loved ones anxiously waiting for news back at home.

A remarkable woman named Iseul is the common thread between past and present; peace and war. Just a young woman when the war begins, Iseul soon finds herself pushed to the very limit as her loved ones, livelihood, and even her village are threatened by the ongoing conflict. 

In the present-day portions of the story, Iseul is a frail elderly lady, confined to a hospice and slowly losing her precious memories. After a chance discovery, her young granddaughter decides to investigate Iseul's life, loves, and family ties. It is a journey that will lead to many surprises, yet ultimately, one that will define generations of their family. 

Above all else, this is a story of hope. These selfless, courageous people had their loved ones and livelihoods taken away from them, yet they still kept on going in hope of a brighter future. From the incredible bravery of Iseul and the villagers to the American soldiers - as the author puts it, fighting in a war not to save their country or their families, but because it is the right thing to do. It is an important, meaningful story. 

Forgotten Reflections is a poignant and moving novel - well worth a read.

Rating: 4 stars 

Forgotten Reflections is available to buy now. 

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Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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