The Surrendered

The Surrendered - Chang-rae Lee

This being a book of historical fiction I thought I would get a little more history than I did. There is very little in this book about either the Korean War 1950-1953 or the Japanese takeover of Manchuria in the 1930s. The main focus is the relationship between the missionary Ames Tanner, his wife (Sylvie Tanner), an American GI (Hector Brennan)and an orphan (June Han)set at a Korean orphanage in the aftermath of the Korean War. There is another thread, set in 1980s when June, now elderly and dying, searches for her son in Italy. Although this may all sound confusing, it is not hard to follow, but that doesn't make it good!

I felt no empathy for any of the characters, I learned little history and the book totally lacks humor. It is all about some weird relationships. In a good author's hands, weird relationships may become tantalizing, but not here. Perhaps I am being overly critical. There is a message; history sets a stamp upon the lives of those who live through it. I do admit it is hard to follow a book as excellent as To the End of the Land by David Grossman, which both taught history and magnificently rendered a triangle love relationship.

The author, Chang-rae Lee, never brought the characters even within arms-lengths. Always they remained at a distance, and for this reason I have only given The Surrendered two stars. Not terrible, but just OK.