By Man Asian Literary Prize winner Kyung-Sook Shin, "a moving delve into a lonely psyche" that follows a neglected young woman's search for human connection in contemporary Seoul (YZ Chin).
San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city center. Haunted by childhood rejection, she stumbles through life—painfully vulnerable, stifled, and unsure. She barely registers to others, especially by the ruthless standards of 1990s South Korea.
Over the course of one hazy, volatile summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash coworker, quiet farmers, and aggressive customers. Fueled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she plunges headfirst into obsession with a passing magazine photographer.
In Violets, best-selling author Kyung-Sook Shin explores misogyny, erasure, and repressed desire, as San desperately searches for both autonomy and attachment in the unforgiving reality of contemporary Korean society.
Longlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Barrios Book in Translation Prize
“With this trigger-warning-worthy tale, Man Asian Literary Prize–winning Shin delivers another meticulous, haunting characterization of an isolated young woman in crisis.” —Booklist, starred review
“With sensuous prose intuitively translated by Hur, Shin vividly captures San’s tragic failure to connect with others. This is hard to put down.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“A shimmering text that blends stark violence with delicate, considered language, preserving, with tender attention, a woman rejected and erased by society.” —Asymptote
“A novel built on the proximity of beauty and violence. . . . Shin has an intense feeling for place, and an ability to bring it alive not as mere setting but as intensely felt imaginative terrain.” —The Guardian
“Shin is known for revealing the ways in which her culture oppresses and isolates people—especially women.” —Kirkus
“With this beautifully translated requiem to the unseen women who live in the shadow of rejection, erasure, and oppression, Kyung-sook Shin brings a powerful indictment of a society that sacrifices its citizens in the name of progress.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“In scenes saturated with feeling, Shin depicts a milieu bristling with classism and misogyny, dramatizing the desires and dreams of a protagonist who, in her own defenseless way, strives for both independence and connection.” —Star Tribune
“Just as silence has its own music, sorrow, too, has a rhythm of its own in this translation.” —The New Indian Express
"Violets is an aching, atmospheric novel about grief and longing. Oh San, our main character, navigates a life of haunting loneliness and yet she finds tender moments of true beauty. In this slim and powerful book, Kyung-Sook Shin deftly explores the violence of life—of shedding childhood, of becoming a woman, of searching for identity in a shifting world. A beautiful translation by Anton Hur. Go read this book!”—Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me
"The beauty of Kyung-Sook Shin’s prose is in its expert weave of immersion, precision and surprise. The narrative ground of San, our unlikely but necessary heroine, may be fraught with unseen tensions yet the writing is as smooth as a finished surface. Despite being consistently tyrannized and quieted by her surroundings, San carries within her an indefatigable fire, a persistence to be. San represents so many women whose stories are never told."—Weike Wang, author of Joan Is Okay
“Darkly beautiful, Violets explores the toll of abandonment and the relentless marginalization of a helpless young woman. The protagonist, San, shivers with insecurity and loneliness but still dares, briefly, to dream of friendship and a normal life. Shin writes of the cruelty and dangers of disempowerment, and an ensuing spiral of despair.”—Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face
"Violets is a moving delve into a lonely psyche, with writing raw and sophisticated, tenderhearted and clear-eyed. Vividly translated by Anton Hur, Shin Kyung-Sook's novel is also an intimate, sideways portrait of Seoul through the eyes of a rural outsider who roams the bright lights and big city not in pursuit of ambitious dreams, but seeking care and human touch."—YZ Chin, author of Edge Case
“Kyung-Sook Shin has a way of seeing past the smooth surface of societal appearance and into the fragile, obscure psychological space that lies just beneath, where her characters ache in ways that feel both recognizable and possessed of deep insight. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that so masterfully captures the subtle desperation of seeking a desire that can be your own in a fast-changing world.” —Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
"Violets lavishes attention on the kind of person who often slips through the cracks, unseen or ignored. There is a beauty and a bravery in speaking for small lives." —Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Starling Days
"Mesmerizing, dreamlike, and prescient in its sharpness and attentiveness to the dynamics between women and the male and female gaze. Violets feels utterly contemporary, and recalls the work of Mariana Enriquez and Dorthe Nors." —Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
"A subtle, deep, unique work of true literature." —Defne Suman, author of The Silence of Scheherazade
“Violets depicts the brutal struggle to construct one’s own narrative amid a vicious cycle where the workings of money and authority are opaque, and one must mold herself to whatever opportunity is allotted.” —Bonnie Huie, translator of Notes of a Crocodile
"Following a rural upbringing filled with rejection and abandonment, San moves to Seoul to pursue work as a typist. She instead falls into work at a flower shop, where tending to the flowers and plants brings her unexpected comfort. But when painful memories begin to rear their ugly heads, San struggles to process the loneliness she feels, and the past and present blur into one. Clean and bursting with symbolism, Violets is a portrait of a longing young woman drowning in a bustling city. Shin Kyung-sook is a master of quiet tragedy." —Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Raven Book Store