Tongue

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An erotically charged, elegantly written novel that marks the first publication in English of author Kyung-Ran Jo, a literary star in Korea who has earned comparisons to Haruki Murakami.

Emotionally raw and emphatically sensual, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a woman’s culinary journey toward self-restoration and revenge. When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, the celebrated young chef Jung Ji-won shuts down the cooking ...

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Tongue: A Novel

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Overview

An erotically charged, elegantly written novel that marks the first publication in English of author Kyung-Ran Jo, a literary star in Korea who has earned comparisons to Haruki Murakami.

Emotionally raw and emphatically sensual, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a woman’s culinary journey toward self-restoration and revenge. When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, the celebrated young chef Jung Ji-won shuts down the cooking school she ran from their home and sinks into deep depression, losing her will to cook, her desire to eat, and even her ability to taste. Returning to the kitchen of the I talian restaurant where her career first began, she slowly rebuilds her life, rediscovering her appreciation of food, both as nourishment and as sensual pleasure. She also starts to devise a plan for a final, vengeful act of culinary seduction.

Tongue is a voluptuous, intimate story of a gourmet relying on her food-centric worldview to emerge from heartbreak; a mesmerizing, delicately plotted novel at once shocking and profoundly familiar.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] surprising and nuanced novel... reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto's cult classic Kitchen... It's a clever debut; a simple-looking dish from the outside that, once you bite in, reveals hidden layers and complexity — and a shockingly bitter finish." —NPR.org

"A sumptuous feast."—Kirkus

"Food is a well-traveled literary metaphor, but here, in a translation by Chi-Young Kim, Jo does marvelous and disturbing things with it, serving up dishes rich with a variety of feelings... And of course there's the most powerful of dishes, the one all the recipes say is best served cold... Buon appetito." —New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

"There are meals that have the power to seduce your taste buds, then your imagination. This is how Kyung Ran Jo writes. Tongue's elegant, erotic tale of heartbreak satisfies just like a perfect meal, then more, because here the last course isn't dessert, but revenge." —Sharon Krum, author of The Thing About Jane Spring

Alison McCulloch
Food is a well-traveled literary metaphor, but here, in a translation by Chi-Young Kim, Jo does marvelous and disturbing things with it, serving up dishes rich with a variety of feelings.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In this plodding, reflective novel, bestselling Korean author Jo's first to be translated into English, a young cook spurned in love works her way out of a depressed stupor and up to an implausible, violent act of revenge. Talented cook Jeong Ji-won and her longtime boyfriend, Han Seok-Ju, run a cooking school together, but after he leaves her for an ex-model, Ji-won falls into a funk and returns to the kitchen at Nove, an Italian restaurant where she had previously worked. There, she gradually restores her confidence in life and with a knife. But circumstances surrounding the death of Seok-Ju's dog lead Ji-won to commit a puzzling and violent act of revenge. The narrative's heavy reliance on reminiscing and ruminations about food shortchanges character development; particularly troubling is how little is revealed about Seok-Ju (we do know, however, that he likes steak), so Ji-won's reasons for wanting him back feel hollow and make her grotesque revenge plan tough to swallow. There's more fat than meat on this one. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
South Korean bestseller Jo makes her English-language debut with a novel focused on elemental experiences, primarily food and sex. As narrator Jung Ji-won quickly informs us, the plot is anti-Romantic. Instead of two characters meeting and falling in love, the story begins with the collapse of a relationship. Ji-won and her long-term architect boyfriend have split, because he has taken up with the lovely Lee Se-yeon, a former model. In an understandable funk, Ji-won closes the cooking school she'd been running out of her home and takes refuge in the sous-chef position she'd formerly had at Nove, an Italian restaurant in Seoul. Her tenure had given her several opportunities to travel to Italy, where she "learned how to pair foie gras with baked apple in Tuscany, how to make gelato in Bologna, and assembled pizza margherita in Napoli." As Ji-won slowly begins to rehabilitate herself, food becomes her passion, her escape and, ultimately, her revenge. The separation from her lover is a messy one, however. She gets their dog, Paulie, while her boyfriend basks in the sensual delights of Se-yeon. On the other hand, Ji-won makes abundantly clear the sensual connection between food and love: "The person you can eat with is also the person you can have sex with, and the person you can have sex with is the person you can eat with. That's why dates always start with a meal." While Ji-won is not pleased with having caught her boyfriend in flagrante delicto, what really puts the icing on the proverbial cake is Se-yeon's decision to teach cooking classes. Not only is Se-yeon, as Ji-won acidly notes, "the woman who couldn't differentiate between parsley and mugwort last fall," she's giving those classesin the "perfect" kitchen the boyfriend originally designed for Ji-won. But chefs have subtle ways of extracting their pound of flesh. A sumptuous feast.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596916517
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Kyung-Ran Jo was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1969. She earned a degree in creative writing from Seoul Institute of the Arts and has participated in the University of Iowa’s renowned International Writing Program. Since her fiction debut at age twenty-eight, she has earned numerous literary awards, including the Today’s Young Artist Prize from the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism as well as the Dong-in L iterary Award for her newest shortstory collection, I Bought Balloons. Tongue, an immediate bestseller in South Korea, is her first novel to be translated

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

    I just read this book. This book is about the art of cooking....

    I just read this book. This book is about the art of cooking........ and of sadness, depression, love, betrayal and REVENGE! Needless to say, it was pretty much awesome. None of the chapters were long, ranging from 2 - 6 pages at the most. Although short, It completely sucks you in. I'm still left in awe about how it ended. It left me completely speechless.
    I will say this, there is some sexual references, and one scene, she describes in vivid detail. Just putting that out there if you're worried about that. Also, the writing can be a bit all over the place. She would randomly give a flash back, she would start to describe something to it's entirety or she would start talking to herself. But it made the story more interesting.
    The punctuation is a little "odd", but I blame that on the translator. When I say that, it was hard to tell when she was thinking or when someone else other than the protagonist talking. It was all written together. Then again, that might be the way she originally wrote the book...

    Anyway, this book is really good and well written for such a short book (179 pages). I don't want to give the story. No spoilers here, lol. Just take my word for it and READ IT!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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