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Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun

Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun

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In the summer of 2002, when Korea is abuzz over hosting the FIFA World Cup, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on is killed in what becomes known as the High School Beauty Murder. Two suspects quickly emerge: rich kid Shin Jeongjun, whose car Hae-on was last seen in, and delivery boy Han Manu, who witnesses Hae-on in the passenger seat of Jeongjun's car just a few hours before her death. But when Jeongjun's alibi turns out to be solid, and no evidence can be pinned on Manu, the case goes cold.

Seventeen years pass without any resolution for those who knew and loved Hae-on, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she's lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.

Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on's classmates, Lemon loosely follows the structure of a detective novel. But finding the perpetrator is not the main objective here. Instead, the work explores grief and trauma, raising important questions about guilt, retribution, and the meaning of death and life.

Kwon Yeo-sun's work is often unconventional in form and topic and for that reason she sometimes has a reputation for being difficult to read.

Kwon's first work Niche of Green was one of the most outstanding coming-of-age novels to emerge from the South Korean publishing world of the 1990s. Eight years after the publication of Niche of Green, Kwon published a short story collection called Maiden’s Skirt. This collection, a book that Kwon professes felt like publishing a love letter to herself, is about defeated individuals who, though troubled by their tragic fates, come to a place of resigned acceptance. The characters in this collection generally consist of people who are handicapped by relationships that society does not accept, such as extramarital affairs and gay relationships. Unable to overcome this sense of handicap, the characters witness their love collapse. In Kwon's second short story collection The Days of Pink Ribbon, the characters are often people who have failed rather than succeeded. They are generally people with defects in their character or physique. In Kwon's work, characters do not fail because of exterior causes but because of their own shortcomings or due to bad fate.

Her 2021 novel, told through interconnected short stories, Lemon, was expanded from her 2016 short story You Do Not Know. It was her first work translated into English by Janet Hong.