Customer Reviews for

The Surrendered

Average Rating 3.5
( 87 )
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5 Star

(21)

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(19)

2 Star

(12)

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(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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  • 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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  • 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 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 May 17, 2010

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