Color of Heaven by Dong Hwa Kim
I think it took the first two books of this series for me to get used to the prose style. While before I was often a little distracted by the constant symbolic discussion of flowers and the natural world, this time I was able to let the symbolism in The Color of Heaven wash over me. The volume opens with a moment of high melodrama as Ehwa has to say goodbye to the man she loves at the train station. Duksam’s master didn’t take his rejection by Ehwa well, and he’s sent out a goon squad to rough up Duksam. With his livelihood gone, Duksam decides to travel to the sea in order to make enough money to support Ehwa by fishing. He promises to return.
Ehwa returns to her mother’s house, and just as her mother waits for the Picture Man, Ehwa now waits for Duksam. I suppose one of the more frustrating aspects of this series is that the women really don’t have much to do but bury themselves in the details of domestic life and wait around for their men. Still, if that’s what life was like in rural Korea at the time I think one can’t complain about the lack of narrative urgency.
Eventually the women get to stop waiting and begin new lives when their men return. I was very interested in the details of Ehwa’s wedding ceremony, and I thought it provided more of a window into Korean culture than many of the earlier discussions the characters had about flowers and butterflies. Overall, I’m glad I took the time to read this series. This trilogy is utterly without irony and sincere in its literary ambitions. It definitely demanded more patience from me as a reader than I’m accustomed to but I was left with the feeling that I’d been able to experience manhwa in a new way.
Review copy provided by the publisher.