If Don Draper's definition of "nostalgia" is to be believed, then I’ll Be Right There is a book steeped in “the pain from an old wound.” It tells the story of university students living through the late 1980s in South Korea, a period marked by political upheaval, student protests, and unexplained deaths and disappearances. Eschewing gritty realism in favor of a more dreamy approach, this novel feels at times like a memory filtered through a gauzy lens of grief and regret; the radiance of youth and the ache of lost time bleed through every page. But while often deeply moving, the pathos and nostalgia that Kyung-sook Shin infuses into every scene can sometimes get to be too much, and there are certain motifs and symbolic characters that push the story too far into the overwrought. Still, there are moments, images, and phrases throughout I'll Be Right There that pierce the heart and capture the staggering grief of a generation of young people whom history has failed. The pain lingers after the final page. Translated by Sora Kim-Russell.
My full video review: