Friday, June 05, 2015

Review: Mark Russell's First Novel, Young-hee and the Pullocho

Some readers may recall that I was invited by Mark Russell about a month ago to partake of drinks and delicacies at the book launch of his first novel, Young-hee and the Pullocho. He invited me because we'd had a passing acquaintance some years back in journalism - the X-pat Files or somesuch for the Korea Herald - and we knew of our mutual predilection for reading good literature.

I had accepted the invitation despite some apprehension, for I knew I'd be expected to post a review - and what if the story were flawed . . . or not flawed, but nevertheless not my sort of literature?

I need not have worried. The tale is excellent . . . and even my sort of literature.

I won't give away any plot spoilers in this review. Sufficient unto the day is this: The protagonist, Young-hee, has lost some irreplaceable something or other in the magical world of East Asian fairy tales and must set off on a quest for a legendary root similar to, but stronger than ginseng, a root known as "pullocho," to trade for the irreplaceable thing she has lost.

Will she succeed in a land not only magical but also as dangerous as many a fairy tale can be? I should add that we learn much about the fairy-tail creatures in this novel by the brief retellings of old East Asian fairy tales interspersed throughout the book, usually at the end of a chapter. I wish only that Mr. Russell had included a glossary of words and expressions unfamiliar to readers who aren't East Asian, and perhaps he will do so in a later edition.

Hint, hint . . .

Even without a glossary, the story is fully intelligible and will fascinate adults as well as children. It ought to prove as successful as another book I've recently read that also mines fairy tales - albeit Western ones - for a story.

Five stars, and best hopes for Mr. Russell's success!

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At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Mark Russell said...

Thanks for those very kind words. I wasn't trying to put you in a bind when I invited you to the launch party. Just thought you might enjoy it and the book. And I'm very happy that you did.

Yeah, a couple of people have commented about how a glossary would help. Not sure when another edition will ever be done, so I'm putting together a glossary on the website. I hope it helps:

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No real bind, just an imagined one.

Let me link that Pullocho Korean Guide for you.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:08 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I enjoyed this review, Jeffery, and I was keen to read Mr. Russell's book, until you said, "the story is fully intelligible."

I just don't, ahem, know what to make of that!

But I am happy a glossary is necessary. Maybe it is not, as you claim, so intelligible after all (and quite properly so... at least as far as us eggheads are concerned).

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, I see your point (and felt that sharp point myself as I wrote those words), but I didn't want to discourage readers, and what I said is true up to a point, anyway, namely, that for East-Asian terms, even if the context makes meaning understandable, I'd still like to know the precise meaning.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Mark Russell said...

Dear Carter Kaplan:

Most of the time when I introduce a Korean word, I explain it immediately in the text (and sometimes explain repeatedly, depending on how often the word appears and how important it is to the story). But the book was written for non-Koreans, so I hope it is quite accessible. If you go to the Amazon link, you can check out a fair amount of the book in a preview and get a sense whether it is for you. ^^

At 2:36 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Looks good. I know a precocious always-has-her-nose-in-a-book sixth grader who will get this for Christmas.

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Terrance Lindall said...

Love the cover and the whole idea!

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, it is great. My own book does something similar with highbrow literature.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Mark Russell said...

@Terrance - Thanks! I think the publisher did a great job with the cover, too.

@ Carter - Thanks! So far my best feedback has come from middle-school age readers. I hope she likes it.


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