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By Kwon Yeo-sun and Janet Hong
Lemon by Kwon Yeo-sun and Janet Hong digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

New York Times Book Review: Editor’s Choice 
Philadelphia Inquirer: Best Book of the Month  
World Literature Today: Notable Translation of the Year  
CrimeReads: Best International Crime Novel of the Year
Ms. Magazine
: Most Anticipated Book of the Year 
Washington Independent Review of Books: Favorite Book of the Year  

meets The Good Son in this piercing psychological portrait of three women haunted by a brutal, unsolved crime.
In the summer of 2002, when Korea is abuzz over hosting the FIFA World Cup, eighteen-year-old Kim Hae-on is killed in what becomes known as the High School Beauty Murder. Two suspects quickly emerge: rich kid Shin Jeongjun, whose car Hae-on was last seen in, and delivery boy Han Manu, who witnessed her there just a few hours before her death. But when Jeongjun’s alibi checks out, and no evidence can be pinned on Manu, the case goes cold.
Seventeen years pass without any resolution for those close to Hae-on, 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. 
Shifting between the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates struck in different ways by her otherworldly beauty, Lemon ostensibly takes the shape of a crime novel. But identifying the perpetrator is not the main objective here: Kwon Yeo-sun uses this well-worn form to craft a searing, timely exploration of privilege, jealousy, trauma, and how we live with the wrongs we have endured and inflicted in turn.

38 Reviews

“This book is a hidden gem. I went into this expecting a short and sweet murder mystery but instead I met a story about grief and what it means to be alive. Although I am disappointed that the main focus wasn’t really the murder itself, this book sparked the kind of existentialist questions I love. If you’re looking for closure to a crime, you probably won’t like this. We’re given questions that are unanswerable that only provide us with an urge to know more, without having that granted. “Lemon”reminds me a lot of Bong Joon-ho’s movie, “Parasite.” Part of the reason I decided to listen to it is because it was marketed that way on Libby, but it really is true. This book is filled with discussions on class and privilege, and we constantly switch sides on who we think the killer is. It’s the classic “rich-boy gets away with stuff because he’s rich and poor-boy is then blamed because he’s poor.” Han Manu was such an interesting and sad character to read about. He’s dealt so many bad cards in life and as readers, we’re meant to feel bad for him. It’s even worse seeing all the trouble he was given during Hae-on’s investigation, since after Jeongjun’s alibi is checked out, Manu and his family are harassed to no end. I thought he would’ve been punished for a crime he didn’t commit but I’m glad he wasn’t, even though he was punished in other ways. Da-on was a character who I found difficult to understand, but her story was nevertheless intriguing. Her struggle with coming to terms with her sisters death and seeing her perspective on her and her family’s grief was heart-breaking. Their grief opens up so many questions about how we feel things and what we’re really in control of. I loved the discussions about grief and fixing the wrongs we’ve done. Lastly, seeing the other two female narrators’ jealousy take two different forms gave the story a hint of drama. I won’t say too much on that since a lot of things are revealed from their perspectives, as they’re more like bystanders to the whole investigation (but still as equally important to the discussions on grief). I loved the formats these characters revealed things in as well as the importance of poetry in the book. There’s less of a defined structure in this book because you’re meant to figure out things yourself, similar to how the characters are figuring out their grief and trauma, you’re meant to do it with them. “Lemon” began as a murder mystery and ended as one big therapy session for all parties involved. It’s super short (160 pages/about 3 hours on audiobook) and definitely worth the read!! I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, I felt so immersed into these character’s lives and constantly was thinking about them. However, don’t go into this expecting a grand reveal or dramatic crime story; nearly all the information is presented subtly and mainly through the characters. But, all the information presented is worth the wait of finding out!”
“this was okay. It was confusing to figure out who was narrating each section. I really enjoyed the twist with the baby but this was mostly anti-climatic.”
“2.5 lemon follows the death of hae-on, a beautiful school girl. the book follows various characters who all knew her or were somehow involved in her murder. described as a murder mystery, there wasn’t much mystery. this book focuses mainly on how each character handles the events – through anger, grief, and acceptance. the hardest part of this book for me, is the cultural difference. asia has a different way of telling and reading stories. unfortunately, this one didn’t quite work for me, and i think the cultural difference is why. each chapter is from a different year, and another character. majority of these characters are a mystery. we don’t know a lot about them. towards the end, we start to see previous characters return for a chapter. it becomes a bit confusing at this point, as none of the chapters are named (some of the characters aren’t either). lemon handles some heavy topics, and does a good job of it. the author shows how complex the mind can be when dealing with a trauma such as murder. i like how each character reacted differently to the situation and how it affected their lives. i also really enjoyed how the translator included little footnotes to explain what the author meant during certain parts (explanations of various social events, etc.)”
“It was quite interesting but I'm not happy about the fact that the mystery wasn't resolved fully to us, although I'm pretty confident in my own vision of the events.”
“Set in South Korea and shifting between 2002 and 2019, Lemon is, in summary, the tale of a young girl’s murder. Seventeen years after the summer in which 18 year old Hae-on, the most stunning girl in school was found dead, Lemon is told by those that were left behind. Whilst the story opens with the introduction of the murder investigation and the explanation of the two identified suspects, we soon learn that both provided alibis and the case went cold. However, despite the premise, I really liked that it was abundantly clear that solving the murder was never the centerpiece of this novel; it is much more centred on humankind, grief, processing, sorrow and joy, classism and camaraderie. Lemon showcases three separate narratives, all with strikingly different styles and perspectives; Da-on, Hae-on’s younger sister who finds herself unable to accept the lack of answers around her sister’s death (and whose grieving process leads her to get significant plastic surgery in a bid to more closely resemble her dead sister), and two of her classmates from school, both of whom processed the death in very different ways. I was impressed with how Kwon Yeo-Sun was able to capture the range of outlooks and mental states so well within her writing; however, I did often find this somewhat hard to follow as the shifts were often swift and fairly subtle. I think this was likely a deliberate choice and probably would have created a hazy and tangential air had I been reading it physically, but on audio this just made the whole thing a bit confusing. I also really wanted a greater portrayal and character building of Hae-on, despite her death being the springboard for all the other thematic observations and explorations this book provides. All in all, I think there is a lot of poignant material in Lemon, however I already am unsure I would be able to tell you the plot or the main characters, and in that way this just didn’t quite come together for me.”

About Kwon Yeo-sun

Kwon Yeo-sun was born in Andong, South Korea, and now lives in Seoul. In 1996 she received the Sangsang Literary Award for her debut novel, Niche of Green. Her subsequent novels and short stories have received numerous literary awards, including the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, and Oh Yeong-su Literature Award, among others. Lemon is her first novel to be published in English.

Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the 2018 TA First Translation Prize and the 16th 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 2018 National Translation Award. Her recent translations include Ha Seong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.

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