Cover Image: Can't I Go Instead

Can't I Go Instead

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Member Reviews

Two women's lives are intertwined through Word War II and the Korean war; one marrying and moving to the United States whilst the other is sent to be a comfort women. In the aftermath of war both women make their way home and must attempt to reclaim the lives they have lost.

Nothing to say other than this was beautiful and heart breaking; a 5 star read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review

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Can't I Go Instead is a book which focuses on the stories of two women, initially girls, one a lord's daughter and the other her servant growing up during the 1920s in Seoul, divided by their social status despite both ultimately growing up in the same household and subsequent coming of age, their desire for survival against a traumatic historical event of Japanese occupation of Korea during WW2 and the ramifications the two women face as young ladies during this time. Given the topic, I felt that Geum-Yi and Jae's translation of it was tactfully done, highlighting a arguably hidden history to the West at least - just how women in Korea and other nations occupied by Japan during the era were treated. It's a heart-wrenching tale and something to reflect upon, how society can and do treat women in times of war.

Thanks to Scribe UK and Netgalley for the ARC.

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This is a very interesting concept in a book. It’s about too young women who are descendent in Korean and one is sold to a higher ranking family and it’s about the two children who look very similar and how they live the lives and how they had to just themselves for the other ones living conditions to be able to take their name. I love that there is a lot of Talk around classism and about discrimination and about segregation in a whole different people with different classes. How they all seem R-Truth real definitely. I think this was a really moving and poignant book that I would hundred percent recommend people, although it does get a little boring at some point, it is generally I’m very heartfelt warm book

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This is a book that demands you take your time with it, but it is worth the pay-off! We follow two women from childhood through to old age, and see how their choices – and the choices of those around them – affect their lives.

The two women at the centre of the story, Chaeryeong and Sunam, were both very nuanced characters. While their characterisation was very subtle, across the course of the book we got to see so many different facets of them both. Their journeys take them all the way around the world, and when they did arrive home, it was a very powerful full-circle moment that showed just how much they had been through and changed.

Lee Geum-yi explores a lot of different power dynamics in this book. Sometimes it’s because of class; sometimes because of gender; sometimes as a part of colonialism. It made the book even more compelling, and was such an interesting way to explore the different characters and the things they went through.

While I would have liked to spend a little more time with the women later in life, this was still a captivating and emotional read.

I received a free copy for an honest review.

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A deeply moving story which entwines the lives of Chaeryeong and Sunam. Each of their stories as harrowing and heartbreaking as the other but in different ways. Their story left me feeling saddened by all that they went through (as well as the other characters). Although fiction, this gave me an insight in to what was happening in Korea, Japan and China leading in to the second world war. This was a part of history that we didn't learn about in school and it really opened my eyes. A story that will leave an imprint on your heart forever.

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Thank you NetGalley and Scribe UK for this eCopy to review

I really enjoyed Can't I Go Instead it was an epic story crossing different social classes, countries and the Korean War and WWII.

I don't know much about Korea and its Japanese Invasion so this book was truly eye opening. I really felt for Kim Sunam and wish she had a better outcome for her life

A truely emotionally charged tale with wonderful characters and settings. It really brought history to life

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"Can't I go instead?" are the words that change Kim Sunam's life forever. She is bought off her parents by Viscount Hyeongman to be his daughter Yun Chaeryeong's maidservant. What ensues is a story that spans decades about the trials and tribulations of both girls during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

The characters may have been fictional, but the painful history is real. Lee Geum Yi has highlighted disturbing historical events that both the female characters experienced. There was a lot to take in with this book. I do feel though, that the ending was quite rushed as compared to the rest of the book.

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This book is a sweeping, emotionally charged tale spanning a century, focusing on two women during the Japanese occupation of Korea. It begins in 1920s Seoul, where two young girls, one a lord’s daughter and one her servant, grow up together in a wealthy household, forever divided by their social statuses. The story delves into themes of coming of age, survival, and perseverance, set against the backdrop of historical events across various countries. It provides multiple perspectives, shedding light on survivors' guilt, trauma, immigration, and love in its various forms. While offering a fast-paced narrative, it occasionally feels like a history lesson. This novel would resonate with fans of June Hur’s historical novels and of "Pachinko" by Lee Minji.
Overall it was a very interesting read if a bit melodramatic at times.

Content warnings include themes of comfort women, racism, and discrimination.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for arn ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The story of two Korean women, starting in their early childhood in 1920s Korea (under Japanese occupation), and ending with their deaths many decades later. The women, whose life intertwine as the story progresses, are Chaeryeong, a daughter of a wealthy Korean who is also a Japanese collaborator, and the other, Sunam, her maid. The story follows the two women as they come of age, find love, suffer immense loss and pain, and finally find peace. Their story is also the story of Korea - the author uses their relationship and life stories to illuminate the history and suffering of Korean women in the 20th century, highlighting both how much has changed over the years, and how much burden remains on families, as well as society more broadly.

What I loved most about the book was the characters. While there are other books that cover similar topics (most prominently, perhaps, for the Western reader in recent years is Pachinko), the life-like, vivid, emotive, and fully formed protagonists are captivating. Reading the book it feels like you learn about real people, while appreciating why they make the decisions they do, and what emotional journeys they are on. It is a true testament to people resilience, and, perhaps, even more - women's resilience. This is the central theme of the book - and a monument to the human spirit.

I also find the tone of the book refreshing and smart. It must be easy to tell this story in a moralising way, and there is enough substance in history to indeed make out the Japanese and the collaborators as villains. However, I actually found the delivery to be more fact based than anything, highlighting the plight of regular people, and describing the circumstances they found themselves in. The facts speak for themselves, and the horror is self-evident. I found this aspect the most powerful aspect of the socio-political thread in the story.

I struggle to say what I disliked here. This is just a great, humane, and engaging novel.

I recommend it highly to anyone interested in Korean history, or the history of women overall in the 20th century.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an opportunity to read this book early in return for an honest review.

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Can't I Go Instead is a family saga, told in different POVs and with lives intertwined in a part of Korean history that caused so much grief, heartache and difficulties for many Koreans.

I learned about how life might have for Koreans living under colonial Japan. The novel painted a rich picture of how the different living conditions, hardships, opportunities and challenges were for people belonging in different social classes.

I enjoyed this novel a lot and would recommend it to lovers of historical fiction and family sagas!

Thank you to Netgalley and ScribeUK for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this eARC of 'Can't I Go Instead' by Lee Geum-yi, translated by An Seon Jae.

'Can't I Go Instead' had such high potential and I did choose it based on the blurb but it wasn't the book for me. I don't know if I could blame the translation or I just don't enjoy Lee Geum-yi's storytelling but for me the pacing felt off and slow and I overall felt like it was boring me all the way through.

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Hvibg read The Picture Bride, I was happy to get this one. Unfortunately, I DNFed at 25%. I found it very slow and confusing with all the characters involved in the story. So is more a me problem than a book problem. Probably someone else will enjoy it more.

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A book I will never forget. I found this book so heartbreaking, heartwarming and also educational to a side of WWII you don’t often hear about. So excited to buy a physical copy so I can reread.

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Thank you to Scribe for the review copy via NetGalley!

Having read ‘The Picture Bride’ also by Lee Geum-Yi, I knew I was going to have to read this asap. Lee’s novels give voice to history rarely novelised and tells it in such a vivid way, with the novel closely following the lives of two deeply intertwined women, exploring class and identity. As far as historical fiction goes, Can’t I go instead is a must read as the narrative is juggled between the stark reality of living in colonial Korea and the immigrant experience in 1940s America. The injustices faced by the characters, especially Sunam leaves much food for thought.

Whilst not a life changing novel, I love this author and would definitely recommend this novel and encourage others to check out her other novel that has been translated into English .

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