In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.
Seventeen years pass without justice, 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.
Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021.
If you asked me to categorise Lemon I would struggle, on the one hand a crime novel on the other contemporary fiction. But perhaps it is not for us to categorise but to merely enjoy what was a unique and singular examination of a crime and the grief and trauma it left behind.
The victim, Hae-on was, as the novel progressed, perhaps not a likeable character, self obsessed, lazy, aloof and the more I read the more I felt that she perhaps lay on a spectrum, her actions strange and out of the ordinary. I did wonder if it was the authors intention, or she was merely portraying a young woman who sought attention and perhaps this was reason for her murder. Whatever the reason it was her younger sister Da-on who drove the narrative, who Yeo-sun used so brilliantly, a young girl who took on the responsibility of looking after Hae-on until her death and then the aftermath, the grief, the unanswered questions that drove her to find the answers.
The interjection of school friends gave a differing perspective, one from the outside, of the relationship between the sisters, of the behaviour of Hae-on.
There were the possible perpetrators, armed with motive, one a mere spectator, and I continually found myself looking for the clues, attempted to guess just who it could be.
Yet I felt no frustration, no desperate need to know, just felt swept along with Yeo-sun’s wonderful narrative. The dissection of grief was profound, the consequences of questionable accusations more important than the answers we thought we wanted and needed.
The author left it for us to decide who we wanted the murderer to be and it was a refreshing and welcome change.
Am interesting, thought provoking and wonderful novel.
I would like to thank Head Of Zeus for a copy of Lemon to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language.