Some books are read hurriedly. We rush through the pages to get to the end and find out ‘what happened’. Some books invite us to linger, as descriptions of exotic backgrounds and high-energy exploits demand attention. Forgotten Reflections: A War Story holds the reader’s attention in both ways. It is a thriller, with a mystery that is not solved until the very end. It is also a moving love story, and character study. Author Young-Im Lee has woven a tale that takes place mostly in wartime. This is the Korean War, but the situation evoked is universal. Even well-planned wars are chaotic for those at the center, civilians and foot soldiers. Their challenges are universal: How do they survive the violence? How do they eat? Who can be trusted and who is a traitor?
Much of what Miss Lee writes may be familiar to Korean readers. Western readers, however, will be introduced to contemporary Korean culture and its foundational myths. Forgotten Reflections: A War Story is a considerable achievement. Using flashbacks and flash-forwards, Ms. Lee nimbly manages a narrative that spans half a century. She accomplishes this without ever breaking the thread of the story. I admire Ms. Lee’s skill as a writer and her apparent passion to explore ideas central to the identity of her country.
There is no need here to belabor the importance of the Korean peninsula in world affairs. Many people in the West are perplexed by how this relatively small area came to be a tinderbox that threatens to explode into a global conflagration. Reading Forgotten Reflections: A War Story will help to explain the origins of the conflict. The book accomplishes this in a way that is entertaining and credible. Ms. Lee’s book is well-worth a reader’s investment of time and money. I highly recommend it.
About the picture:
South Koreans are harvesting rice near the Demilitarized Zone. The picture is appropriate for this review because so much of the people’s energy during the war was spent in trying to feed themselves and in trying to preserve rice stores for the future. After reading the book, I find it hard to look at the bounty in the picture without reflecting on the struggles of the South Korean people during the war.