Missing: The Other Side: Kdrama review

Spoilers ahead. If you’re planning to watch this show, I highly recommend watching it first, then reading this review.

Leave the audience wanting more. That is one of the best compliments a movie or TV show can get, and something that Missing: The Other Side earns from the audience in it’s scant twelve episodes. One the one hand, the amount of time was exactly correct for the plot and characters, on the other hand, the time was too short and the plot and characters could have easily handled longer story arcs. This is rare, especially for television, which almost always draws things out too long, ruining great beginnings in the process.

Missing is essentially a ghost story, but it’s also a procedural crime drama. I found it to be a good mix of both and didn’t make the mistakes of either wallowing in its own violence or succumbing to over-explicating. Episode one was a doozy and so much better if one doesn’t know a thing about the plot, so one can along with the main character, Kim Wook (Ko Soo, Heart Surgeons) be left reeling, wondering just what on earth is going on.

Kim Wook is a con artist who works together with a couple of other friends, one a pawn shop owner, the other a hacker. Through a series of coincidences, Wook ends up in a forest in the country. Here, he survives a couple of near-death experiences and comes across a village that he belated realizes not just anyone can see. The old man who saves his life can also see the village and the people in it. Jang Pan Seok (Heo Jun Ho, Come and Hug Me) has been living just outside the village for quite some time. Turns out the village is a bit of a purgatory-like place, a stopping off point for ghosts who have particular unfinished business. The unfinished business is that their bodies haven’t been found by any human. Many of them also died violently or due to circumstances they don’t remember.

Wook catches on pretty quickly to just what Pan Seok has been up to: Doing what the police detectives could not do, finding the bodies of these people, allowing them to move on to the next life or sphere. They work together, sometimes with the police, and sometimes not. One detective in particular, Shin Joon Ho (Ha Joon), keeps running into Wook and gets roped into helping them. Considering Wook sounds crazy and sees things he cannot, Detective Shin is pretty openminded, and a good thing, too, as he solves more cases by being so.

In this story, the “missing” are people missing in real life, but also those whose bodies are missing. It’s an interesting dynamic and allows for, well, a lot of heartbreaking scenes as those still alive realize their loved ones are dead, and also that their bodies need to be found for them to be at peace. Detective Shin’s story is particularly tragic as he first realizes that his fiancee is missing, then discovers she is dead. The fiancee Choi Yeo Na, played by the beautiful Seo Eun Su (A Hundred Million Stars from the Sky) also struggles with the fact that she has died. In the village she can eat, drink, sleep, feel, touch, etc., and continually plans to escape in whatever way she can.

The rules of the village–which I think is called Duon–were masterfully done. It was a good mix of clarity, subtlety, and little or no explanation. The ghosts in the village seem real to each other, having all their senses, and, again, the ability to eat, drink, fall in love, cry, have sorrow and pain. For the living who can see them, the village is much like a real place, with buildings and furniture they can sit on, food they can eat, and people they can interact with just as if they were still alive. The ghosts move on when their bodies are found, that’s their only out. For the still living people, by the end of the show, it’s revealed they are seeing this village because they have a connection to it. They know a person in the village somehow and when that person moves on, they can no longer see the village or people. Many of the inhabitants in the village have been there for years and lead fully lives. They have the ability to learn to skills and to work if they want to. It’s an interesting angle. One of the oldest residents is an owner of the local bar/coffee shoo/restaurant. He’s named Thomas and was once a freedom fighter for Korea and died under Japanese rule. Another couple, who fell in love after they died, have been in the village for over twenty years. And so on and so forth.

Missing is unique and really keeps one guessing in some ways, but in other ways telegraphs everything that will come. For the main mystery of a missing grandchild, it was easy to tell how that was going to play out. But other things threw me, like Thomas’s status as a Renaissance man, and the revelation that bad killers who died also come to the village and wreak terror on their fellow ghosts even if they technically can’t kill them anymore. That aspect is so disturbing that I’m glad the writers don’t dwell on it too long. These poor people die tragic deaths and then get molested again in the afterlife? Ugh, just ugh! It definitely adds another level to the plot, though, as what to do with the baddies isn’t always easy or obvious.

The acting in this show was really good. I came to like Kim Wook more and more, though he wasn’t super likable at first. I was surprised to find the actor that plays Thomas, Song Geon Hee is actually really young. He plays and old soul well, and I would say had the most iconic screen presence of the show, so much so that it was highlighted at the end when Thomas goes to the next life. Ha Joon, who played Detective Shin, threw me out of the story at first, as he looks at lot like American actor Scott Wolf to me (Party of Five, White Squall – WWG1WGA! – sorry, gotta get a Q reference in). He is a cutie born in 1987 like some other famous actors–Li Min Ho, Li Seung Gi, Seo In Guk among others. Something good was in the water in Korea that year. He and the other leads did great jobs with their crying scenes, and there were many. They seemed genuinely sad and heartbroken.

Because Missing to its credit doesn’t explain much about this purgatory world, there’s little of religion in it aside from both the alive and ghost humans pleading and praying to God when they need it. There’s little of magic, either, but the amount was sufficient to me as the focus was always on the characters and on solving the various mysteries. I wasn’t quite sure if they were going to keep Thomas in the village at the end or have him move on. The writers chose to have him move on, but then alluded to Wook and Pan Seok continuing to have the ability to see the ghosts of the missing and being able to continue solving mysteries.

All in all a great show and so much potential if they had wanted to continue it–leaving Thomas around as a staple, for example, or adding new ghosts and/or new humans that can see them. It was only twelve episodes, so shorter than many Kdramas, but it was sufficient length for the mysteries they chose and I don’t think they left any major strings untied by the end. This is the kind of show, though, that could sport several seasons and much longer story arcs. It’s also something easily adapted to other countries and cultures. Every place on earth there are people who go missing and die violently, with their bodies never found. My belief is that of the Bible, that when they die people go to heaven or hell, they don’t stick around, but this was a great way of showcasing the idea that some could and why they could. I liked that it wasn’t just about finding the killers, but that it was about the finding of the bodies and giving them a proper burial and recognition. Duon village seemed like another dimension or realm that none of the characters fully understood. Thomas speculates that there could be other villages of its kind, and the ending hints that as well.

Next Week: I am not yet sure what I’m going to review, having belatedly decided to do Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, to get more of Trolls for Dust, Season Three under my belt. No way will I be writing 50,000 words in November, but I will be very happy if I can get over 25,000. My plan is to still post or do a review weekly, but we’ll see how that plays out. Happy Halloween, and for the Lutherans, Happy Reformation Day!

RRR: Marriage by Decree

Can a man really be forced into marriage? This is a key question posed in Marriage by Decree, the Signet Regency Romance by Ellen Fitzgerald. Published in 1988 and part of Signet’s Romantic Interludes, this is only one of a few that Fitzgerald wrote for Signet. The story wasn’t half bad, but I didn’t find it to be a keeper, as the magic just wasn’t there.

Back to the question: Can a man, or a woman, for that matter, be forced into marriage? Certainly in some cultures, yes. In the Britain of the Regency Era, though, it was a lot easier for a man to escape an unwanted marriage than a woman. They simply had more resources, especially legal ones, to avoid it. However, this isn’t really what the author refers to in the story. What she’s talking about is the nature of manhood, primarily man’s purposeful pursuance of romance. Basically, it works like this: The man pursues, the women succumb. Don’t believe me as now women are so liberated? Women, try chasing and winning a man who doesn’t want you. Time and time again, you will find it just doesn’t work, but with the tables reversed, women often give in and/or are won over and it all works splendidly. And that is actually very romantic.

In Marriage by Decree, two people are decreed by royalty, aka, the government, to get married. Scandal being the reason. Alice Osborne, our heroine, is an American this time, and not too fond of the British due to the Revolutionary War and its following skirmishes and battles. Alice’s father, Charles, is more optimistic about improving relations between the two countries, and has agreed to be a diplomat to London at the request of the President, who in 1815 would have been James Madison. As they travel by ship to England, Alice is openly scornful of anyone on the ship who looks as if they might be a British soldier.

Deep down, though, Alice is a good soul, and during a storm on the sea, saves one of those soldiers from being washed overboard. This part I thought could have used more description. Help came too quickly, though the way some women can scream, would definitely garner immediate attention. At any rate, despite holding him fast and screaming, Alice doesn’t do much, it’s one of the sailors who gets the solider below deck. Despite that fact, tall, dark, and handsome Robert Saint-Aubyn is overwhelmed with gratitude for the pretty red-headed eighteen-year-old. The lesson, here, ladies is to assist handsome men when they are in dire need as they will be extremely grateful and will perhaps even want to marry you.

Despite what would normally be a turning point for someone, Alice is still scornful of Robert, though attracted. Definitely attracted. Sadly, he already has a fiancee, something Alice’s friend Phoebe bemoans, as she has been instantly smitten. When they arrive in England, Alice and Phoebe part ways, as Phoebe’s going to live in Scotland. The Osbornes settle in London and Alice is able to meet Richard’s fiancee, Janet. At first, Janet seems quite helpful to the women who saved her fiancee’s life, but the “help” soon grates on Alice, who as an American is used to more freedom.

Janet sends a harridan of a woman to be a companion to Alice, but the woman proves to be overly strict, causing Alice to react poorly, leaving the house secretively to meet men she barely knows, much to her father’s horror. Of course he responds by making her prison even tighter around her. It is not without reason that Alice should have a chaperone everywhere she goes, the streets of London aren’t always safe, men do have sinister motives, and young women are very naive. However, Alice is more naive than most, and that grated on me during the story. She is so loathing of Britain in the beginning, yet how quickly a handsome stranger persuades her throw caution to the winds.

Soon Alice finds herself in truly dire straights. The handsome fiend, a womanizer named Lord Winston, helps her escape her house in the dead of night and take her hours away to the whorehouse of a French emigre. Alice’s stupidity doesn’t end there: She allows the Lord to ply her with enough alcohol to make her drunk and lead her upstairs to “rest.”

In comes our hero, Robert, who has not forgotten Alice and keeps talking about her life-saving heroics to Janet, who is obviously quite jealous by this time. Turns out Lord Winston is a friend of Janet’s and they have both plotted together to ruin Alice. Winston will sleep with Alice and leave her, allowing her to fall out of all good society. When Robert hears of this he goes into knight errant mode and immediately takes off to rescue Alice, with barely a thought for Janet in the process. After the rescue, the pair find it slow-going to get back to London and have to stop at an inn at which there is only one room left. When Robert drops her at home, the servants hear him speaking of their adventures and scandal ensues. So much so that the Prince Regent himself, a friend of Robert’s, decrees that Robert and Alice must marry even though they did not sleep together. Janet leaves Robert and he caves, agreeing to marry Alice.

At first it seems as if the two may make the best of things with this unwanted marriage, but after arriving at Robert’s estate called The Towers (Wives and Daughters! So have to read that again), he takes off for days, deserting his new bride. Alice despairs, thinking she will never find happiness with a man who was forced to marry her. But her servant wisely says that no man can truly be forced into marriage. On some level, Robert did in fact want to marry her. Robert himself struggles with this reality. He finds himself needing some time to get over Janet, who has stupidly eloped with Lord Winston, but when he returns is resolute, and also horrified to find that Alice has been riding out with Tim, one of the stable hands–not romantically, of course, but servants will talk. He is at once afraid that all women are like Janet, but soon finds that Alice wants to be true to him, it’s just that she needs some help.

Here’s a lesson for the men: It’s not logical and if they try, women can fight against the mentality, but if a women doesn’t have some kind of connection with her man for a few days, she may become anxious. This is entirely due to the nature of women. We want to please men and we want reassurance we are accepted. If we don’t think we’re accepted, we may determine to find out how to get accepted, to be pleasing, change our clothes, or hair, even behavior. We really are very anxious to please. A women who doesn’t hear from her partner in a few days will be much, much more anxious than a man will. A man will logically think she’s just busy. A woman will illogically think there must be something wrong. Men in relationships, help yourselves out here: Don’t leave your woman hanging for too long. Connect with her as much as you can and reassure her that she is the one you want. Yeah, it’s annoying, but it will save you so much time and energy in the long run.

This illogical anxiety is Alice’s state of mind and she just doesn’t have the maturity to realize it for what it is. Her servant helps her the most by telling her that Robert wouldn’t have married her if he hadn’t wanted to do it. Neither prince or country could make him. Robert comes back and proves that this is true. He soundly beds his wife and makes her incandescently happy.

The last half of the story I didn’t find super interesting. The villainess Janet rises again, being as she’s one of those people who think if they aren’t happy, no one should be happy, and it just gets over the top, what with Alice getting kidnapped by an angry ex-soldier and held hostage. It was just too, too much, although the contemplating of the mood between America and Britain at the time I did find interesting. It’s not something we think a lot about today. Not a bad story, not bad writing, but forgettable. Nothing really stood out about it to me, except the intriguing question from above.

We are in different times today, and in many countries it’s not likely one would be forced into marriage. I think it likely few of either sex today would allow themselves to be forced into a marriage they didn’t want. Men sometimes say that women trap them into marriage by getting pregnant, but I think it’s just something they say to avoid the fact it was their choice to sleep with the woman and also their choice to marry her. It’s takes both a man and a woman to make a baby. It just does, and it’s silly to blame another person for choices one freely makes. So, can a man be forced into marriage? Can a woman? Do babies force marriage? It is a true kindness and goodness to a child if his parents are married, but our current society doesn’t make it mandatory. I think the answer is that no, neither sex is forced, not these days. If they get married, it’s because on some level they want to either be married to that person, or to just be married.

One more thing for women: Women’s anxiety over her man. It’s a thing, we do have this, but if you are married to a good man, or even a bad one, remember that he chose to do it. He chose you instead of all the others out there. There should be some security in that. And often if he’s not in touch or not around much, he truly is busy. He’s dealing with work or projects he has to get done. Men, I would like to say the reverse is true, but it’s not a great sign if your woman is not in touch with you. Working women are in fact forced into single focus man mode while on the job, so that’s an exception there, but otherwise it’s generally not in the nature of a woman to stay disconnected from you. We crave those connections constantly.

Alright, and that’s my Regency Romance advice for today! What do you think? Do you think that’s true about men and women or am I just spinning yarns of worlds here? Too many romances going to my head, perhaps?

Up next week, a review of Missing: The Other Side, a ghostly tale perfect for Halloween.

Melting Me Softly: Age Is Just a Number

Rom-Coms can really be so fun. I enjoyed watching this one, though I think it was a tad slow to binge watch. Melting Me Softly stars the ever handsome Ji Chang Wook (The K2), and Won Jin A. The plot is science fiction, but the genre is definitely romantic comedy. Ji really impressed me this time with his acting–he’s definitely getting better over time, and he had great chemistry with Won, who’s a petite firecracker with a really cool, low voice. She reminds me a bit of So Ye Ji from Lawless Lawyer and Save Me.

Melting Me Softly is about cryogenics. Ji plays Ma Dong Chan, a top-of-his-game production director, who in 1999 decides to do an experiment in freezing people for his hit show. Won plays Go Mi Ran, a college student who works part-time doing crazy stunts for the same show. Mi Ran agrees to be frozen with Dong Chan for a total of two hours, and the production assistants will get it all on camera. Due to a mishap, the two end up being frozen not for two hours, but for twenty years!

I really enjoyed watching this despite the often slow pace. It was so fun to revisit the 90s and many parts were funny, with both over-the-top scene chewing and deadpan humor. Some of the jokes were quick one-liners I almost missed. It was hilarious watching the leads wake up in 2019 and encounter their friends and relatives, now all twenty years older.

At the beginning, Dong Chan is 32 and Mi Ran, 24, so when they end up in 2019 they are technically 52 and 44. Much fun is made of this, as both the leads and people around them decide to treat them as their past age or their technical age, depending on the circumstances. Many of the supporting characters are just as they were in 1999, just a bit grayer and wrinklier, but some have become even more outlandish. Some of the best comedy comes from this, and the four standouts were: Lim Won Hee (You’re All Surrounded) as Dong Chan’s subordinate, who still sports longish hair and bites his nails; Jeon Su Kyeong (Devilish Charm) as Dong Chan’s now alcoholic younger sister; Kim Won Hae, who is a Kdrama staple, as Dong Chan’s younger brother (Kim also plays their dad, who in 2019 has passed away. Dong Chan keeps mistaking his younger, now older brother for his dad); and, finally, Shim Hyung Tak (My Sassy Girl), who plays Mi Ran’s weirdo ex-boyfriend who still has a thing for her twenty years later. Shim chomped the scenery five times over and gave that crazy character his own solar system.

This show stuck pretty close to rom-com territory. There’s a couple of cartoonish villains, but not a lot of action as a whole. Most of the plot centered around relationships, which was a way to use the jump in time well. To heat up the romance, the bane of being frozen is that the leads’ body temperatures need to stay at 31.7 degrees Celsius or about 89 degrees Fahrenheit. The “steamiest” scene is a cold shower makeout session, and much of the last half of the show is spent with the doctors and scientists trying to figure out how the two can live and love normally. Good foreshadowing for the ending, and I give the writer props for working it in so well. We know it’s coming, we know it’s coming, and then it happens.

The best part of the show is that it reinforces the idea that age is just a number. Dong Chan is still given respect even though he looks 32 not 52, and Mi Ran considers herself 24 or 44 depending on her mood, and no one much cares because she looks young and beautiful. The friends and relatives they knew in 1999 still have the same hearts and essential cores in 2019, and it’s cool to see that the siblings who are all now technically older still need their older brother or sister. Vitality and goodness of heart as being more important than age is constantly reinforced, as well as the idea that no matter how old you are, you can always improve and change for the better. This is also a great show for those who are thinking being frozen would be a good thing. Living out one’s life in real time is something that one can’t get back, should one choose to skip it by getting frozen. The twenty years missed still hang over the couple, and I think their share in that sorrow is really what pulls the two together into a romance. No one else on earth knows what they are going through.

My next Kdrama review will be a weird one: Missing: The Other Side. It’s a creepy, supernatural one, so I’m not sure I’ll make through the whole thing, but we’ll see. One episode in, and it’s intriguing simply because I have no idea what’s going on. Look for that review in a few weeks.

Fall Reading List: 2020

With the cooling weather, fall is a great time to curl up with a hot drink and a book. Okay, who am I fooling, I do that all the time, no matter the season. Here are some of the books I plan to read this fall.

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. Sadly, I didn’t get to read this classic this summer, so fall it will be. It’s one of my favorite reads and a great adventure story.

Partners of the Heart by Vivien T. Thomas. My mom has been bugging me to read this book for a few years, now, and finally I’m getting around to it. It’s about cardiac surgery and the two men who pioneered the program at Johns Hopkins University.

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Nothing like a du Maurier story, but add time travel and I’m sold!

Marriage by Decree by Ellen Fitzgerald. I am still wading through the tacky Regency romances. In this one, the heroine is American.

Restaurant to Another World, Book 1 by Junpei Inuzuka. Sometimes I do peruse the Manga shelves at my local bookstore. This one sounds promising and is also written as an actual novel. The chapter titles are all food dishes, so I will make sure to have snacks near me when reading it.

The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester. This is a second read for me, and tells the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be. It’s one of those books that many would find boring, but I find fascinating and have wanted to read it again for some time.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. A retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, a German fairy tale in the Grimm collection. I really like modern versions of fairy tales, especially if they are done well. One of my favorites is Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce, a retelling of the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson.

Heart of India series by Linda Chaikin. Starting with the book Silk, as a teenager I could not put this series down. It’s got romance and adventure galore and is set in the late 1700s. Somehow this series avoided being cookie cutter Christian fiction, an amazing feat in its own right.

This isn’t a full list, as I’ll likely pick up some Sherlock Holmes or Poe–’tis the season, after all. And always, always, am I finding new stories to read every day.

Those D’Urbervilles: A Review of Tess of the…

Thomas Hardy just may be my new favorite writer. Somehow I missed reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles in school and am sorely sorry I did. What a crazy, wonderful book. There’s much to love and hate about the story and that’s kind of why I like it–Great literature often produces polarizing views and opinions.

Because Hardy is writing in a time of more censor in art and entertainment, the scenes regarding the rape were unclear to me. Not that I wanted to read violence or anything, it’s just he wrote it in a way that even Tess herself didn’t understand she was raped. But Hardy makes it very clear she doesn’t like Alex D’Urberville, especially in the last part of the story. More spoilers ahead.

Tess is a sad, sad story, but it’s not a boring sad story: It ends with a cathartic, pathetic climax of both horror and ecstasy. I do not like the story itself, nor many of the characters, but it reminded me of another much hailed horrible story: The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald. Both of these books are somewhat the horrors of their times on display, written in gorgeous prose. Most of the enjoyment is in the writing itself, but as with Gatsby, there’s much to learn from Tess about the times in which she lived.

Again, we come to the problem of a woman in being young and beautiful. Here, my sympathy is roused, as Tess faces not only a rapist who impregnates her, but who, after encountering her later on continues stalking and pursuing her. Because she is poor and her husband who could have helped her has abandoned her, she has little defense against him. The story is intended to show how hypocritical society is towards young women who have been wronged in this way. The rape part aside for a brief moment, even still today a woman that sleeps around is reviled, where a man that does the same is often lifted up as having many conquests. Why this is the case, I’m not sure, but it has largely to do with the differences between the sexes, and there are many.

This is shown a bit in the story: Tess and three of her friends all are in love with Angel, our almost hero. One gets the impression that at least her friends would have all been perfectly happy to be in a harem with Angel. Maybe they think it would be better than nothing. Tess herself seems genuinely sad for them that they don’t get the desire of their heart. They also are genuinely happy that Angel chooses her. This is may be a bit of a fantastical view of women from a man’s point of view, but it is true that at least some women don’t seem to mind sharing a man. Men seem far less likely to agree to share their woman with another man, and a man who would, would automatically go down a few notches in a woman’s perspective of him.

I think the dichotomy between the sexes comes largely due to the fact that men are and should be the pursuers when it comes to romance. It just doesn’t work out when the woman is the one doing the pursuing, and that is the implication that comes to mind when we hear of a women having many sexual partners.

However, this is not our dear, beautiful Tess! In this story, Tess is an innocent teenager who has been raped. Society should have compassion on her; sadly, in those times, it often did not. Hardy doesn’t really show society’s rejection of Tess in full force. He shows it through one man: Angel Clare. Like his name, Angel is a fanciful head-in-the-clouds kind of person. He doesn’t take the religion of his parents seriously, has the luxury of being well off enough to have time to think and dabble in farming, considering making it his occupation. Being able to study, think, and write is really a form of wealth all on its own. Tess is quite a thinker herself, but she has to do it while doing physical labor or while making treks of miles and miles across Wessex, Hardy’s fictional English county.

Angel Clare is essentially modern society at the time, throwing off religion and taking up fanciful views of the people who work the land. He is a man who imagines himself to be very liberal minded, but when it comes down to it, it is the Christian love and forgiveness that would have served him far better than any liberal attitudes. Not that Tess really has anything to forgive. It was so, so hard to read the chapter when they finally got married and on their wedding night she still hadn’t told him that she wasn’t a virgin, when lo and behold, he suddenly brings up the topic. Angel, too, is no virgin, having had a fling one night. He is anxious that Tess would forgive him for this and her soul soars because she, too, has a similar sin to confess, and is thrilled thinking they will both forgive each other and that will be the end of the matter.

But as will people who profess to be tolerant, often one finds they are not. So it is with Angel. He rejects her almost instantly. Does he understand she’s been raped? Does society understand this about the incident? Tess’s mother certainly does, but she seems to be the only one. Tess is so in love with Angel, that she agrees to be a martyr, to take whatever punishment he meets out. Hardy says she would have been far better to act more the emotional women, to beg and plead at his feet, as then he would have been won over and relented. Hardy is referring to the fact that men are moved by women’s genuine tears; and to their credit, they so often are. We love that about men. Hardy also states that Angel’s father who is a preacher and very religious is far more full of forgiveness than the irreligious son. It is true that society so often promotes the judgmental church, that it forgets the church is also and much more so about forgiveness and love, and being able to start over no matter what–all things are possible with God.

Tess’s behavior in willingly letting Angel walk all over here is pathetic, but it comes from an unstable mind: It is unclear in the book until the end that Tess understands that what Alex did to her was wrong, though she is afraid of him and talks about doing him harm if he keeps showing up in her life. It is also clear that Angel’s rejection is merely a picture of society’s rejection of her. At this time Tess would be perfectly happy to die at Angel’s hand as punishment for her sin. This foreshadows her death at the hand of society for another, worse, sin. Tess really has no outlet for sharing her sorrows, for the guilt of the rape is placed on herself, i.e., she never should have put herself in that vulnerable position. While it’s true that sometimes young women don’t use common sense in dress and behavior that encourages unwanted attention, I don’t think it’s fair to blame them for a man raping them. Even Alex continually says it’s her fault for being so attractive! Is this belief genuine, from Alex, from society, and from Angel? It seems to me a good way not to deal with the actual problem: Alex D’urberville is a dangerous predator who should be tried and charged.

Happily, Angel eventually wakes up from his stupidity, realizing a year or more later that he does love Tess and does forgive her. Sadly, there still is little self-reflection on his own sin. Aside from his confession on their wedding night–a confession in which there was no question in his mind that Tess would forgive him–he thinks little of it. What hypocrites we humans are: We commit the same sin (though I wouldn’t call it a sin on Tess’s part) and ignore it in ourselves, yet see it as unforgivable in other people.

Angel and Tess are reunited for a few good nights of passion, but this comes at a cost: Tess murders Alex D’Urberville. Because Angel takes so long coming back to her, and she and her family are so down on their luck, Tess becomes prey once again for Alex. Although he is loathsome, when someone wants to step in and provide for you and your family that are on the brink homelessness and starvation, that’s hard to turn down. She also believes his lies that her husband will never come back to her, and it is those lies that actually cause her to stab Alex.

The story ends rather epically in the early morning as Tess and Angel are fleeing cross country. They happen upon Stonehenge and decide to rest there, only to be surrounded by the police. As before, Tess is only too happy to be taken away to be tried and executed for her sin. I think Hardy is making it very difficult for society at the time to swallow such a thing as the criminal so eager to be brought to justice. The implication in this is that even in committing murder, Tess did nothing wrong. Again, Christian love, forgiveness, and understanding from the beginning would have been far better, as would have justice against the true villain, Alex, but then we wouldn’t have a story.

For a time, Hardy has Alex himself reform and take up religion, but it is only a sham, for the moment he sees Tess again, he drops God like a hot potato, and picks up his sin of wrongfully pursuing her once again. Alex justifies this by claiming to love her and also to want to take care of her and provide for her, but it’s pretty clear all he’s going by is lust.

What the significance is with the D’Urberville family history in the story, I’m still not sure. Tess is Tess Durbeyfeld, and her family was at one time the powerful D’Urberville tribe, of which her very distant cousin, Alex, is one of the last. The family estates and cemetery plots appear to be all over the county. Tess’s father is a drunken lout, who has no real keening for work. He’s a dreamer and when he finds out that his family was rich long, long ago, he fancies that somehow riches will find his family again, as if by magic. He and his wife send their eldest daughter, Tess, out in search of the leftover D’Urbervilles, putting her in Alex’s way, and there the story begins. So far has the family fallen, that their last remaining heir is a rapist, and Tess’s branch of the family poverty stricken. It’s all great, great stuff, especially Angel’s profession not to care for lofty families, but then being impressed that Tess is a D’Urberville. Maybe the significance is, again, just the ironies involved, or Angel’s inconsistency. It’s easy to forget that he, too, is very young–maybe 25?

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the wonderful writing, and will definitely be reading it again at some point. I take it back what I said about good looking people: It can be a curse for them, just as much as ugly looks can be a kind of curse for others. The good news is that we don’t have to live our lives based on such shallow things. We can choose to rise above them, and with God’s help, succeed. This love and charity Hardy showed best between Tess and her friends. They were only too happy for each other’s success in romance, held no grudges against each other, and continued being friends and giving genuine help, despite their unfortunate fixation on Angel Clare. As for this idea that only women are held accountable when it comes to sex, it’s hard to deny that even today, this is still somewhat true. It may be largely due to the fact that women alone can get pregnant, a nine-month visibility of the sin. Happily today, rape is considered wrong and not the women’s fault, though that’s muddied a bit by some women falsely accusing men of the crime and the feminist push to perceive all men as rapists.

Again, we don’t have to live this way. All women are not harlots trying to trap men and all men are not rapists trying to abuse women. I for one would be happy to see the movements of the sexual revolution and feminism die the agonizing deaths they well deserve. Both philosophies are a stain on humanity and have caused so much grief, sorrow, and torment, especially for women. Nowadays, some men have been so estranged from women that they will gleefully talk about sleeping with them whenever they feel like it, but never about protecting, providing, or loving them. With glee, these men joke about lonely cat ladies, while they eagerly pile on wealth for themselves and themselves alone. Many women do the same, neither caring for or nurturing the men they sleep with, and only wanting their money, quickly divorcing them for the alimony at the first chance they get. Both attitudes keep the cycle of war between the sexes spinning at an impressive rate. How did we get here?

I say, again, we don’t have to live this way. We can choose to marry, to settle down, to have children and family, to have lives full of love and meaning. We can rise above past hurts and still love and care for the opposite sex. Even if for some reason we can’t marry or can’t have kids, we can support those who can, and encourage their prosperity. Families, not single, selfish, lonely people, are the true building blocks of a thriving society. Tess clearly shows that all of Angel’s lofty ideas are but nought if he has not love and charity. This, for me, was the true lesson of the story.

Jeremiah: Always timely

This was supposed to be published last week, but other things got in the way. Gotta earn my daily bacon somehow. Next week I plan to review Tess of the D’Urbervilles and also possibly the Kdrama Melting Me Softly, if I finish it in time. Tried Watcher starring Han Suk Kyu (Secret Door) and Seo Kang Joon (When the Weather is Fine), and made it to episode 5 before realizing I was extremely bored, despite it being an interesting plot of investigation police corruption. Sometimes a show can be too slowly paced, even if it’s a slow burn type of story. On to the prophet Jeremiah:

In Bible reading the Old Testament prophets don’t get a lot of love. Many people like Psalms, Proverbs in the OT, and the Gospels and letters of the New Testament, but the books of the prophets are often a hard sell for daily reading. For one thing, God’s prophets were sent with one main message: Repent or you will be destroyed. Not a happy message. God also asked the prophets to do strange things in their lives, making them into living object lessons for the people. The books of the prophets often require a knowledge and understanding of the history of Israel and Judah at the time as well, so they can really be intimidating. These days, I’m reading Jeremiah, as I’ve never read the whole thing before, but I’m doing it via The People’s Bible series, which combines commentary and annotations to the text, presenting a fuller picture for the reader.

Jeremiah prophesied from 627BC to 586BC, some forty plus years. He lived in Judah after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed, and went through four kings of Judah in his time of ministry. After I finish Jeremiah, I want to read the parts of 2 Kings that deal with this time in history, as it will give more a picture of each king’s reign. The first king, Josiah, was a good king, who rediscovered the Scriptures and helped lead at least some of the Jews back to worshipping God. Josiah’s sons, however, were ungodly and despicable, and although God’s patience is long, eventually the kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon and king Nebuchadnezzar.

A prophet’s life is one of ministry, it’s a calling and is one’s whole life. Jeremiah didn’t get to have a wife or family, as God wanted him solely focused on telling the people of Judah what God wanted him to say. For warning the kingdom of the coming destruction, Jeremiah got no thanks and was much abused by the people and officials of the day. His life was often threatened and at times he was imprisoned or put in the stocks. Still, he kept speaking the truth, hoping that some would listen, repent, and turn back to the Living God who so loves them.

One thing I really like with The People’s Bible series is getting more background of what’s going on. It also helps in separating what parts of the prophecy are Jeremiah speaking and what parts are what God said. For some reason in trying to read it straight through on my own, I didn’t really distinguish it as much, even though it’s pretty clearly identified by Jeremiah. Likely, I was just trying to read it too fast. Forty years, lots of prophecies. Now I’m about halfway, and like with Isaiah, another long book of prophecies, one almost gets whiplash. It goes from punishment to redemption, destruction to salvation, and captivity to freedom. That is kind of the roller coaster or rather pendulum of the Christian faith. Sin, repentance, forgiveness and redemption…and then usually back to Sin again, because our sinful natures constantly drag us down, pulling us away from God. Again, again, and again, we need to be shown our sin and turn back to God. If that’s sounds frustrating for us, it’s probably even more so for God, but he hasn’t deserted us. He has a lot of patience, considering. In Jeremiah, he had a lot of patience for Judah as well, but finally had to fulfill the prophesies of destruction and captivity, for they would not repent of their idolatry and turn back to them.

Unrepentant hearts aren’t unique to Judah. This is a problem every nation faces. Many Christians can see the same effects of sin and idolatry in America today. It’s maybe not outright idol worship, but it’s just as destructive to the country. We have many criminals and people of violence wishing to seize power and drag us down even further. However, I think many people are turning back to God, which is a wonderful thing. Now, a lot of the evil is being so blatant and open about what they are doing that many people’s eyes are being opened to the truth. Our governments have all become very, very corrupt, and it is only by God’s grace that we currently have a president who actually loves America and its people.

The other side only has fear, violence, and hate. Most people don’t want to live that way; they want to live quiet lives and go to work and care for their families. For some reason, in this day and time, God is letting the good people have power again, and they are gaining more every day. I’d like to think that he is relenting in our country’s destruction because many are turning back to him in prayer, but I don’t know for sure. God chooses the authorities and rulers in this world, and, good or bad, he works out what they do for his purposes. In Jeremiah, it’s clear that any ruler who deliberately scorns God is walking a dangerous tightrope, both for himself and for his nation.

Jeremiah also has some good quotes. I’m on chapter 29 and here are my favorites so far:

Circumcize yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your heart, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it. –Jeremiah 4:4

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.” –Jeremiah 6:16

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. –Jeremiah 7:31

O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” “Therefore I will teach them–this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.” –Jeremiah 16:19-21

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is him him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that send out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9

“I will punish you as your deeds deserve,” declares the Lord. “I will kindle a fire in your forests and will consume everything around you.” –Jeremiah 21:14

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” –Jeremiah 23:5-6

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. –Jeremiah 23:23-24

“But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” (Jeremiah speaking to the false prophets who kept saying everything would be fine and that Judah would not be destroyed) –Jeremiah 28:9

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:11-13

There are so, so many more good quotes, so many cool idioms and metaphors, and such great descriptions, that I just couldn’t write them all down. Would have to become a biblical scribe. I’m sure by the time I’m done reading it, I will have many more quotes written down. Jeremiah is timely in his message now and until the end of the world, because we are always sinning, and always need God to remind us to repent and to turn to him and all will be forgiven through the blood of Jesus. It’s very comforting to know that God does take sin seriously, especially idolatry and the evil practices regarding children of the day. This has not gone away. Children are still being trafficked and abused horribly by those in power who practice idolatry or even just pretend to practice it to get ahead in whatever power group in which they want to advance. Because God does take sin seriously, it is all the more comforting to see he is just as serious about our salvation from sin. He wants everyone, all people, to turn to him, to believe on Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and died for them, and to be saved to eternal life.

Secret Love Affair: A Work of Art

It’s rare that one comes across a TV show that is a work of art. Artsy movies abound, as do some many series, but hours and hours of a TV show? Well, it’s just not that common. In fact, I don’t really know that I’ve ever watched a TV show I would consider a work of art–up until now, that is.

Something about affairs, whether it’s the illicitness or the adventure, something about affairs is often involved in the art of story. This is something you can find right across history, from The Bridges of Madison County to the Illiad and that whole thing with Helen of Troy. Maybe it’s just the fact that in an affair there are likely to be high emotions and also retributions from the injured or cuckolded party–plenty of dynamics and fireworks possible.

Although publicly society generally doesn’t condone affairs, in our entertainment and art, they are everywhere. Sadly, few of the fictional stories about affairs truly touch how wrong it is to break one’s vows of marriage. The Korean drama Secret Love Affair is no different in this, and that’s because the sin it focuses on is not the affair itself, but the reason for it: The main character is living in an awful environment and denying her true self any agency.

A trend in K-dramas in recent years has been pairing older women with younger men. I’m sure real young men would be a bit horrified at this, but it’s just a reversal of the standard in visual storytelling, which for decades has been older men with much younger women. In real life one sees age gap pairings, but they are not nearly as common as TV and movies would lead us to believe. In my own experience, couples, married or not are two people of roughly the same age or within a few years of each other. The older I get, I realize that age doesn’t really matter that much when it comes to a relationship, but biologically, it can. Older women, for example, have less childbearing years ahead of them. That in itself may give a young man who wants a lot of biological kids pause. In Secret Love Affair, this aspect is not even a consideration, though the age gap is 20 years.

As a women who is in her 40s, I can’t even fathom dating a man of twenty or even early twenties. That aspect of this story grated on me throughout, for the young man was way too much of a boy still. He hasn’t even had time to think if he wants kids in his future or not. He was, essentially, a way for the female lead to change her life, and she also helped him change his life, but beyond that, it was a bit creepy. I don’t know how big an age gap has to be to be creepy–everyone probably has a different threshold–but for me, 20 years is too much. So, why did I continue watching? Hands down, for the music and the sort-of redemption story.

Secret Love Affair (aka Secret Affair) stars Kim Hee Ae (Mrs. Cop) as Oh Hye Won, a director/personal assistant to the Seohan Arts Foundation. In her job she is wedded deeply and dangerously to the family who owns the foundation. These are not nice people. Her husband, played well by Park Hyuk Kwan (Six Flying Dragons) is a do-nothing hanger on who has no music or teaching whatsoever, but somehow got a spot at the music school the foundation owns. Their marriage is one of convenience, both wanted to be a part of the foundation and saw that they could if they were together. This was the biggest sin Hye Won made in her life, for it led to her entanglement with the foundation and a life of walking on glass. When we are first introduced to her, we see that Hye Won has great talent at her job, that she has tact and guile and has helped the foundation succeed. It seems unlikely that she herself has musical talent, but we soon discover she does.

During preparation for a big concert, a young, lowly delivery guy happens upon the scene. Lee Sun Jae, played very well by Yoo Ah In (Chicago Typewriter) is a quiet, hesitant man in his early twenties. He quickly gets into trouble stealing some piano time on the schools expensive grand. The kicker is, that his performance is recorded and immediately Hye Won’s husband sees the young man as his ticket to greatness at the school and beyond. He pesters his wife to give the kid a listen and declare him someone who should be admitted to the school right away.

The couple’s real first meeting is at this audition at Hye Won’s home, and as a first meeting, it’s amazing. Few couples get to spend this much time together, ever. Ok, I exaggerate, but it’s unusual one gets to spend so much time with a person upon first meeting them. Hye Won listens to Sun Jae play and is immediately hypnotized. You see, she has musical talent at the piano. Back in the day, she could have been a star, but she was convinced to work in administration instead. She listens to him for hours and then starts to play along with him. The two immediately connect emotionally, spiritually, and physically through playing together. Their style of playing is very similar, their appreciation of music, as if they are one heart. It’s instalove, but spread over a few hours.

Inevitably, they do have an affair, but though they sort of attempt to hide it, it’s really not a secret to anyone. Hye Won is really the only one surprised, but it’s hard to see oneself and how one changes and flowers under real love and real passion and emotion. That takes an outside view. Everyone else could see how obviously she was changing except herself. Through her relationship with Sun Jae, Hye Won starts to realize what a truly toxic environment she’s been living in. Her life isn’t really her own; her husband’s life is barely his own. To save herself and also Sun Jae’s future, Hye Won embarks on a path of intrigue in order to take down the family and the foundation.

This show is a great, intense watch. All of the actors are spot on, especially Park as the irritating husband. He is so perfectly loathsome, he brings Hye Won down with him. What kind of women is she really to have entered into a marriage of convenience with him? The writing and directing are also top notch. Each episode feels like a film, and it reminded me most in style to Heartless City (also a great watch, but hard to finish). The music is all consuming and nearly ever present in the background. This is classical music, but stepped up to ten in its emotional impact. Contrast that with the awful school and the owning family, and the parts where the characters experience real joy in their practice and performances become jewels to be treasured.

One aspect that was almost too much to handle, was the supporting cast of women in the show. Many of these characters were prone to scary violence, and it’s quite possible that Hye Won herself could’ve one day become like that had she not turned almost all her emotion off.

It’s interesting at the end how Sun Jae keeps calling Hye Won to be good, but she knows she has to callously take down the family first or neither of them will ever be free. In some ways, Sun Jae is content to stay as he is with Hye Won almost as a stand-in mother figure to him (yeah, creepy), but she nudges him, gets him to spread his wings, and soon he’s making new friends all on his own and leading secret jam sessions. By this point we barely miss the cuckolded husband, though we are maybe shocked at how upset about the affair he actually is, as they seem to have had a loveless, sexless marriage. More likely, he finally realizes just how much of a loser he is on all levels. So Hye Won gets her redemption story and Sun Jae has hope for a future. Will they stay together? By the end, it doesn’t really matter, for they’ve fulfilled whatever was needed for the other by the end of the show.

Sad the story revolves around an affair, but I suppose these types of plots are signs that at least some of modern society still takes marriage vows seriously. And that’s a really good thing. It was shocking to see how isolating a loveless marriage can be. If Hye Won hadn’t had a couple of good friends, she would likely have had a total breakdown at some point. Your spouse should be your best friend and lover, someone you can confide in and be yourself with. She found that with Sun Jae and he with her. The piano music sort of packaged everything together.

Secret Love Affair is a worthwhile watch, and there are moral lessons in the story, though probably not the ones you’d expect. This show is a work of art on all levels.

Tess: Afraid to Read the Next Chapter!

Somehow throughout my schooling as an English major I avoided ever having to read Thomas Hardy or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This year I am giving it a try and wow, what gorgeous writing!! And I feel so, so bad for Tess! What a jerk and rapist her sort-of cousin is. In reading the book, it doesn’t seem as if Tess herself really understands if she was raped or not. Maybe she wasn’t? Maybe she did acquiesce? Have to read what other scholars have said about this, but it doesn’t seem she liked the guy very much, and did not enjoy the experience, at any rate.

My favorite part of the book so far is at the dairy farm. What fun! What descriptions! Makes me want to work on an old-time dairy farm for a summer. After all that Tess has been through, having a child out of wedlock, and then losing that child, at twenty she finds some happiness and falls in love with Angel Clare. This part of the book is so happy, I just want to stop here and not read the rest, but curiosity will get the best of me, I know it. As they are 40 or so miles from where Tess had the scandal with her cousin, Angel and those on the dairy farm don’t know that Tess isn’t a virgin and she is reluctant to tell Angel, as she’s sure her chances with him will be gone. Her mother, who is practical for all her drinking, says not to tell him. Sometimes this is the right thing to do; it’s not necessary to confess all of your sins to everyone all of the time. Often it’s between you and God. However, as she had a baby from it, this is clearly a big secret that if it comes out–and it’s likely to–will ruin Tess forever. She dithers back and forth between telling Angel or not, knowing that it’s probably better to get in front of the matter than clean up behind.

Angel is portrayed as a broadminded sort of fellow, so it’s likely that he won’t care as much as she thinks he will, but sometimes these so-called broadminded people turn out to be very narrow-minded and unforgiving in the end, thus her very real fear to tell him. Angel himself is inconsistent in at least one way: he claims to not care for old, wealthy families, but then is overly impressed that Tess comes from the now decrepit family of the once prosperous D’Urbervilles. Several times before the wedding, Tess attempts to tell Angel, but can never quite do it, and then the wedding day arrives, they get married and they’re in their new digs, and suddenly Angel wants to confess to her his failings of fidelity.

Aha! She is thrilled at this news. They have both committed the same sin and will both forgive each other for it, so after his confession she bravely launches into her own…and his response is in chapter thirty-five, and I…just…can’t…read…it! He’s going to reject her, acting the hypocrite, I know it! And throw her out of the house and denounce her to all around! These are fictional characters and not real people, but sometimes it’s so hard to read or watch even fictional people go through these trials. Maybe I will work up the courage by tomorrow.

Pretty Proofreader: 100%!

Who doesn’t love a story about a person who gives 100% in what they do? These books, movies, and shows are always inspiring to me and I wish there were more of them. One of my favorites of these is Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams, and I think the girl power version of this 100% dedication could be its own sub-genre.

The Japanese drama Pretty Proofreader is the second J-drama I tried on Viki and this was a hit! What a show! Perhaps I’m a teensy bit biased as I used to proofread for a codebook (city and county ordinances) company and often miss doing it. Proofreading is one of those unsung heroes types of jobs, especially as the reality is that very few of one’s suggestions are often taken. It requires dedication in the face of that.

Etsuko Kono, played by the petite Satomi Ishihara is a bubbly, vivacious fashionista in her late 20s. Ever since graduating, she’s applied every year to the publishing house that owns Lassy fashion magazine, hoping to get hired as an editor. She is the magazine’s biggest fan, having kept all of their copies over the years and reading them cover to cover. To her surprise, I think this is the 7th or 8th time, she is finally hired! But it’s to the proofreading department in the basement.

At first Etsuko is disappointed, but she quickly rallies, delving into the proofreading with a relish she probably didn’t know she had. Her greatest skill is checking the facts of the novels she proofreads, and soon she’s taking off at all hours of the work day to confirm things. This isn’t so unusual, fact checking is a part of proofreading, but the proofreaders usually just stay at their desks. Some of her colleagues previously built model houses, acted out sword fights, and the like, but soon all of them are out and about, checking the facts and getting to know more of their countrymen in the process. If only real proofreading jobs were more like this! Perhaps there are some, but it may take persistence to find them. Etsuko’s blatant questioning of some of the novelists choices would probably normally get her fired, but here, they quickly warm to her and are encouraged by her to do even better jobs at writing.

Yukito, the love interest, becomes so fascinated by the proofreaders that few know about, that it inspires him to write a whole book on all of the unsung heroes in Japanese civilization, the people who keep the electricity going, the trains running safely, and so on.

If one knows Japanese, the show would be even more enjoyable, because there’s a lot of play on words–much to her chagrin, Etsuko Kono, or Kono Etsuko is shortened by her colleagues to koestu, which literally means copywriting, and I know I likely missed a lot of that not knowing much of the language.

As is traditional with these stories, there is a romance, but it was kind of meh. Yukito (Masaki Suda) is a college student and magazine model who runs into Etsuko by accident. They click right away, but over the course of the show there didn’t seem to be real chemistry. She had more chemistry with the editor for the proofreading department, Mr. Kaizuka (Munetaka Aoki), who she calls Octopus. Perhaps because Yukito is quieter and more blasé, and the other two are loud and dynamic, that’s why I thought they got along better, but, honestly, I just found Mr. K to be more manly and attractive and was hoping they would change course and make the romance with him. Oh well. Etsuko and Yukito support each other well in their work and lives, and maybe that’s more important than a lot of passion.

Etsuko lives above a neighborhood Odon restaurant owned by a friend of her dad’s, and her apartment is cute, but she spends at least half of her time there in the restaurant. Odon is a hot pot or soup that’s popular in Japan and the show inspired me to try and make it sometime. I find most Asian foods from whichever country to be delicious, so it’s always fun to try new ones. Odon is from the Kantu region in Japan, and the broth is made of dashi, or fish and kelp stock, and miso. The main ingredients in the soup are usually fish cakes, boiled eggs, and daikon radishes. Not sure how I’m going to find or make fish cakes.

Pretty Proofreader is only 11 episodes, but the time is used well, and it’s a warm blanket type of show as there’s really no outright villains, and almost every character is caring and caring of others. It’s very, very sweet and comforting to watch, even if it is fantasy. I have noticed with K-dramas and now this J-drama that the characters are often more caring and kind to each other on American shows. This is maybe because most American shows are plot driven, but really it’s probably our independence here. We take much pride in doing things ourselves, and bottom lines often override everything else. The characters in this show are workaholics also, but it’s portrayed as work uplifting and meaningful to their souls, not a lot of talk about making money. What talk there is, is portrayed as troublesome and missing the mark of both connecting with people and doing a good job. It’s a refreshing perspective, though I’m not sure how much of it is true of either Korea or Japan, having never lived there.

Unsurprisingly, this show is based on a book of the same name. There is a Chinese version, and I do know a smidgeon of Chinese, but I’ll have to put getting this book out of my head as I’m trying to learn Korean enough to read their novels. It’s very slow going: Never have I fluently learned another language.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!!

Monday’s Child: RRR

Another Regency Romance Review this week. Although there was a bit of tackiness in Monday’s Child by Barbara Hazard, it is a book I enjoyed and one that I’m likely to keep to read again. The romance was heartwarming.

A Fawcett Crest Book published by Ballantine Books in 1993, Monday’s Child was definitely a more modern story than the other two I reviewed. Although there was some nonsense of force against women, it didn’t, thankfully, come from the romantic hero. Hazard’s writing style was a bit in the vein of Julie Klassan, so maybe that’s why I liked it so well. The main character, Sarah Lacey, was very likable and that helped also.

This is another story which tries to imply what a curse it is for a woman to be beautiful. I’m sure in real life there are downsides to having a pretty face, but it’s kind of like Brad Pitt or someone like that claiming to have been a nerd in high school. No one really believes it. And maybe that is the real curse to being blessed with good looks: It’s really hard for regular people to believe the good looks truly give a person difficulty.

For Sarah Lacey, her curse isn’t so much her looks as it is her family. They remind me of the father and oldest daughter in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, always grasping for more wealth, class, and titles, and refusing to be content with their own class and station in life. This is not to say that people can’t strive after wealth, they certainly can, but this isn’t the way to go about it: Practically selling off one’s daughter instead of working hard with one’s property, in this case a farm, which is already wealth beyond measure for many around the world. The Lacey family is contrasted nicely by the humble and productive farmer Evan Lancaster. Though in his own humbleness, he doesn’t realize what a catch he actually is.

A young earl in the neighborhood takes a fancy to Sarah’s pretty face and insists that they will be married. He is younger than her and refuses to take no for an answer. Add a bizarre suggestion of kidnapping into the mix by Sarah’s rake of a brother, and events in the novel strain credulity. Young men certainly do have wild ideas, but it’s really, really hard to believe that this young earl would have actually kidnapped Sarah and held her hostage until she agreed to marry him or slept with him, or both. It’s a case of trying to make a character into too much of a villain. His insistence despite Sarah’s wishes and clear disinterest in him is really enough, and I was disappointed in that whole part of the story, even though it was funny how Sarah thwarted the young earl’s efforts.

The best part of this book was the love story between old friends. Sarah and Evan have long been friends and long been in love with each other, and finally they both realize it and understand that no one else will do. Friends falling in love are some of my favorite romances. It’s so sweet to see them slowly realize, wait I love this person! In addition to that, Hazard did well with the minor characters included and also made the village of Sutton Cross come alive. Old biddies gossiping over tea are a must, as are holiday events, balls, and the like. This book was a joy to read compared to the other two and has me excited to read more. Oh, “Monday’s child is fair of face.” That’s where the title comes from, a poem the book says was “quoted by A. E. Bray, Traditions of Devonshire.” The original author must be unknown.