Customer Reviews for

The Surrendered

Average Rating 3.5
( 87 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(23)

3 Star

(19)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(12)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Powerful, Depressing

Very good novel that kept me interested the whole way through: The three main characters (Hector, a ruined shell of a man who buries himself in booze and barroom brawling; Sylvie, the missionary who on the outside appears naive and idealistic yet actually carries a much...
Very good novel that kept me interested the whole way through: The three main characters (Hector, a ruined shell of a man who buries himself in booze and barroom brawling; Sylvie, the missionary who on the outside appears naive and idealistic yet actually carries a much deeper burden; and June, a Korean woman who is dying of cancer and desperately seeking her estranged son before she dies) are riveting in their own unique fashions, and each of them has been ruined by events from their personal pasts... bringing such ruined people together blends the perfect recipe for tragedy.


The story jumps back and forth in time between the Korean war and the mid 80's- which for me is where the flaws come into play. 3/4 of the book are spent in the "past" (primarily an orphanage in post-war Korea), which leaves too little spent on the current. The main crux of the story is of a woman's final days trying to right all the wrongs in her life by reconciling with those whose lives she help destroy. The problem is that too little of the story deals with the present, and by the end I felt there was a bit of "lopsidedness" to the flashbacks of the story.

However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The prose are very good, and many passages are downright poetic. I felt the characters were very well constructed and almost came alive off the pages- they were each complex in their own ways, and frequently diid unlikeable things (yet I still liked them, which is hard thing for a write to achieve) Novels this long often suffer from "sagging" too much in the middle, but this book never sags. I was engrossed the entire way through this incredibly depressing journey. This is not a "happy" read by any stretch, and has scenes of violence that may be too raw for some people- particularly events that occur to June in the first chapter and Sylvie's family in later chapters.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a very depressing, very violent journey between three people who have surrendered any hope of redemption.

posted by mr-markster on July 18, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Characters of war

Many years after the war, two of the characters reconnect. I, however, could not connect with the characters.

posted by 3038730 on April 24, 2010

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Page 1 of 5
  • Posted July 18, 2010

    Powerful, Depressing

    Very good novel that kept me interested the whole way through: The three main characters (Hector, a ruined shell of a man who buries himself in booze and barroom brawling; Sylvie, the missionary who on the outside appears naive and idealistic yet actually carries a much deeper burden; and June, a Korean woman who is dying of cancer and desperately seeking her estranged son before she dies) are riveting in their own unique fashions, and each of them has been ruined by events from their personal pasts... bringing such ruined people together blends the perfect recipe for tragedy.


    The story jumps back and forth in time between the Korean war and the mid 80's- which for me is where the flaws come into play. 3/4 of the book are spent in the "past" (primarily an orphanage in post-war Korea), which leaves too little spent on the current. The main crux of the story is of a woman's final days trying to right all the wrongs in her life by reconciling with those whose lives she help destroy. The problem is that too little of the story deals with the present, and by the end I felt there was a bit of "lopsidedness" to the flashbacks of the story.

    However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The prose are very good, and many passages are downright poetic. I felt the characters were very well constructed and almost came alive off the pages- they were each complex in their own ways, and frequently diid unlikeable things (yet I still liked them, which is hard thing for a write to achieve) Novels this long often suffer from "sagging" too much in the middle, but this book never sags. I was engrossed the entire way through this incredibly depressing journey. This is not a "happy" read by any stretch, and has scenes of violence that may be too raw for some people- particularly events that occur to June in the first chapter and Sylvie's family in later chapters.

    Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a very depressing, very violent journey between three people who have surrendered any hope of redemption.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    Beautifully written

    In The Surrendered Chang Rae Lee does what he does best: write about displaced people trying to find a way to live in their own skins while wondering if it's actually worth figuring out. Like in his other novels, the characters are withdrawn and uncommunicative, but the creator's affection for his characters comes through and you find yourself hoping (although not without pessimism) they find some peace and contentment.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Superb Book!

    After winning an uncorrected proof copy of this book I didn't immediately start it since it is fairly large (467 pages) but I should have picked it up immediately! Once I started reading I couldn't put it down. A mesmerizing story that will stay with you a long time and you keep thinking about the characters weeks afterward. This book is a 'keeper' so will buy the book as soon as it comes out for my personal library and read it again as this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    Absorbing, Another Beautifully Written Journey

    Deeply moving, unusually insight on the influences and nuances of life. Multiple viewpoints move the reader through experiences that cross cultures, ages and time. Bittersweet and memorable.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not all that I wanted it to be...

    this book depressed me. it was full of awful characters, who did awful things, with awful results. nothing redeemed these characters. as the stories unfolded, and you found out the true history of each of their lives, i disliked them even more.

    it's hard to like a book where you dislike everyone.

    true, i had some feelings of sadness for both june and hector (not so much sylvie)...at different times in the novel...it didn't overshadow the looming iniquitousness that i felt lived inside each of them. and then...when each of them was punished, in their own way, i didn't feel relieved that they got their due. i just felt yucky (that's the only word that i can think of that fits my feelings...sorry).

    i don't want to feel yucky when i read a book. i don't mind moments of that, but i like to have a little bit of satisfaction when i turn the final page...this book didn't give me that.

    added note: (upon further thought. perhaps this is why the book is called 'the surrendered'...as a reader, i feel like everyone in the novel surrendered themselves to the evil and awful sides of their nature...and as a reader, i felt like i surrendered myself to reading the story of these horrid sad people.)

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    An Emotional Read

    This book had me crying by the end of the first chapter, and a few times more by the time I finished. It's about three people who are brought together in war torn Korea. One is a Korean girl named June who loses her entire family in the war and ends up in an orphanage. The second is Hector, a self punishing solider from America who blames himself for his father's death. The third is Sylvie, the wife of a missionary who goes to run the orphanage in Korea with her husband, but ends up with a tragic fate like her parents. Both June and Hector meet Sylvie at the orphanage and vie for Sylvie's affections. All of these characters are damaged in their own way and each have a heartbreaking tale to tell. June's story is the main artery of the book. Hers is a story of survival and how that survival hardened her against the people she loved, leaving her with regrets later in life. Her strength to overcome and will to live is astounding when compared to Hector and Sylvie who have surrendered to life and have given up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2011

    Dress in black to read this:

    What a mournful book. I've read Chang Rae Lee's "A Gesture Life", an excellent book. But "The Surrendered" doesn't have a happy moment. The writing is beautiful. CRL is a master of the evocative description. If it was the author's intention to prove that war destroys everyone who comes in contact with it, this book is a magnificent success. It's too long by far, but I kept reading in hopes that the sun would come out---unfortunately it's one endless rain of sadness. A good book has to have at least one character to root for, someone to care about. The characters in "The Surrendered" are beyond repair, utterly hopeless, and for me at least this flaw made it an unsatisfying read. It's not that I insist on a candy-cane world---It's that one of the requirements of good literature is to create characters the reader can identify with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    There is still love.

    "The Surrendered", is the first of Chang-Rae Lee's novels that I have read. I loved this book. Finding words adequate enough to express my thoughts is difficult. The writing is beautiful and evocative even with the harsh subject matter.

    Post-war Korea is the main setting of the story and with any novel set during wartime, it plays havoc with our emotions. June - the young orphan, Sylvie - the missionary's tragic wife and Hector - the American GI are all battling personal wars of their own but it is no less heart-wrenching as the reader battles alongside them. Yet despite all that these characters have experienced, they still managed to love fiercely. And to me that is the message this story gives, that no matter what trials we are dealt in life, there is still love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    Characters of war

    Many years after the war, two of the characters reconnect. I, however, could not connect with the characters.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    verbose

    good point is the creation of characters.
    adequate read not satisfying

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2013

    I read the reviews on this book so wanted to read it, it did kee

    I read the reviews on this book so wanted to read it, it did keep my interest from beginning to end, the beginning is very sad but you have to read that to understand June, the characters fall into place as you read further into the book. Good book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    worth reading

    Watch Lee for future books. He is good.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    Highly recommended

    An excellent story. Kept me interested until the end. Was kind of a downer though.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Not worth the time to read

    I read a lot of novels and I am always looking for something new. I went by the critic's review of this book and bought it. However I was extremely disappointed with the story. Absolutely pointless, had a hard time finishing it. Don't waste your time or money!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 10, 2011

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    Posted March 30, 2010

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    Posted April 17, 2011

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    Posted March 12, 2010

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    Posted February 14, 2010

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    Posted December 27, 2012

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