Excerpts from the Korean Quarterly, Fall 2001
Princess June is a novel that presents Junee, a Korean woman who meets and falls in love with an American serviceman, and eventually gives birth to a mixed race child. The story does a magnificent job capturing the essence and strength of an idealized yet tragic Korean birth mother. But the story of Junee is much more complex than just a tragic and hopeful story of a woman who places her child for adoption. Although it is pivotal, the adoption is just one incident in a complicated, violent, and eventful life that the character leads… Junee is like a phoenix that gets burned yet rises from the embers more beautiful and stronger than ever. It is the story of a daughter wanting to know more about her mother and in the process learning more about herself… Lee is truly a talented storyteller. Her book was a delight to read. Download full review in PDF format
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It should be fairly obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Although I couldn't directly relate to the characters, I found them to be
interesting, and in Junee's case in particular, memorable. My only peeve
is the use of the flashback to tell the majority of the story. As with all
stories told in this manner, I would've preferred that it unfold linearly
instead, from beginning to end. But it didn't greatly affect my enjoyment,
and I'm glad to have read Princess June.
This may be the first novel of a new author from a small press, but don't let that fool you. For me, it was a true find. I cannot remember when was the last time a novel captivated and touched me quite like this one has. I read it twice back to back and discovered that the story has multiple layers. That was surprising because the author's writing style appears simple and straight-forward on the surface. I would say that the language is compact but it isn't dry by any means. On the contrary, this is a passionate and emotionally charged writing with exquisite passages that may be described as lyrical or poetic. But the author doesn't get bogged down trying to be too precious with words. The language works on your own imagination instead. You "see" images in your mind as you read. It's the kind of writing style that doesn't call attention to itself but to the content and the characters. The storyline flows easily and smoothly at a nice, crisp clip. But the characters are what's central here. There are a wide variety of fascinating characters, both Koreans and Americans, from all walks of life. The author's understanding of psychology is "right on" and she has created all her characters with such care that you feel like they are right there with you on your side. These characters feel so real! And you grasp the sense of a whole character all at once, just from a few bits of descriptions and from the way they talk. It's exciting to be one of the first to discover a new voice that is so uniquely original with heart and vision to give as gifts.
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Dear Ms. Lee,
You have a special talent for dialog. I love dialog-rich stories, so naturally that’s the first thing I noticed about your novel, Princess June. First off, your dialog sounds true and is exciting to read. And it also reveals the personalities of the characters so well and moves the storyline at the same time. Another thing that impressed me was the overall structure and balance of the story. It was clear to me you had a vision for the whole story as one cohesive unit and had the skills to manifest that vision. The textures are consistent and the rhythm is steady throughout. I really liked the way the story gets better and better as it goes on, right up to the strong and emotional end. But those qualities were not what ultimately prompted me to write to you. The story made me pause and think about bigger questions of life, and that was a totally unexpected gift. I initially started reading your novel for pure entertainment but found it to be something much deeper and profound in the end. For that, I wanted to thank you. I really hope you do well with the book, your first novel. It will be a real pleasure to see you turn out many more stories like this one. Good luck to you!