December 3, 2022



4 min read

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ELLA KELLEHER WRITES – Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old lady who refers to herself as a “illness management specialist.” The so-called ‘vermin’ she spends her time exterminating for a excessive value are people with a sure rodent-like disposition. By no means thoughts her age and perceived frailty –that’s how she evades suspicion. Hornclaw is each match and harmful with completely no empathy for outsiders. None aside from Deadweight, her equally aged canine. Hornclaw teeters on a high quality line of calculated ruthlessness and tenderness for these she cares for. The vulnerability of emotional uncertainty spirals her down a path of reckoning, the place she should make a option to both give into love, her biggest weak point, or shun it fully.

Writer Gu Byeong-Mo

After making an novice mistake on her final job, which causes her a substantial quantity of bodily ache, Hornclaw finds herself mendacity unconscious within the workplace of Dr. Kang. A form physician who decides to not decide her, regardless of the copious knives hidden inside the lining of her coat. Dr. Kang solely treats her wounds and chooses to not name the police. Shocked by his understanding nature, Hornclaw slowly however absolutely succumbs to sentimentality. Her hard-shell exterior cracks to disclose the tiny, fragile human inside. She leaves abruptly, solely to comprehend {that a} pair of eyes are watching her. Maybe her determination for a peaceable, simple retirement cushioned by her considerable financial savings is not doable.

The Previous Girl with the Knife (2022) is a improbable introduction to Korean writer Gu Byeong-Mo, who has launched different well-received tales equivalent to The Wizard Bakery (2009) and “The Story of P.C.” (2017). Proficient translator Chi-Younger Kim expertly conveys the philosophical dilemma confronted by the story’s anti-hero. Hornclaw, who begins to doubt herself and her talents, can not shake off the same old on a regular basis issues. Earlier than, ignoring human emotions was easy – simply pull the set off earlier than any feelings have the time to settle.

The Previous Girl with the Knife – 191 pages – Hanover Sq. Press – $11.99

It’s the approach Hornclaw begins to attach with individuals, not simply Dr. Kang however even the native rubbish collector, that really unnerves her. “Now she is noticing the vacancy in a stranger’s eyes and feeling sympathy, an sudden comprehension of what it’s prefer to really feel the tug of flesh and bone.” Is that this proof of a psychological downward spiral or that her physique and soul lastly wish to really feel one thing apart from careless apathy? Equally to how an aged particular person finds hope in God on their loss of life mattress, Hornclaw begins to search out solace in commiserating with different human beings.

Nonetheless, now’s not the time for going ‘delicate.’ In Hornclaw’s line of labor, one is certain to make enemies. As anticipated, somebody has been ready years for the right second to strike – somebody whose life was upended by a deed that Hornclaw has since fully forgotten about. Simply as she makes new associates, grows nearer to the individuals round her, and adequately nurtures her devoted canine, she unintentionally places everybody she cares for in danger. What higher technique to destroy somebody than by taking revenge on their family members first?

Mo’s novel questions the traditional conceptions of each motherhood and previous age. Entrenched in Korean society, which locations heavy restrictions on girls and the aged, many indicators level to why Hornclaw ought to give up ‘illness extermination.’ “Her physique could not do what she needs it to. Every little thing ultimately succumbs to erosion, together with the soul. Every little thing ruptures; prospects, like growing older our bodies, wither.” She is underestimated by everybody round her, who anticipate her to meet the societal positions of different aged neighborhood figures such because the trash collector, fruit vendor, or native panhandler.


Not solely does Hornclaw reject the traditional function of the native aged lady, however she additionally rejects motherhood altogether. After freely giving the one little one she had with a lover from her youth, she experiences no remorse following her determination. “She’s by no means shared her life with anybody… [When] it grew weathered with time, she burned the new child’s image within the range; watching the picture singe and crumple, not solely did she not really feel any remorse, she felt a launch.” Regardless of what extra conventional societies, like Korea, have codified into their cultural commonplace, not each lady is lower out to be a mother, and never each aged particular person deserves underestimation.

It isn’t frequent that the heroine of a narrative is each a assassin and over the age of forty. Gu Byeong-Mo’s thrilling psychological story challenges each literary conventions and our personal preconceived judgments about sure ignored varieties in society. Stylistically witty, clean, and extremely gripping – Mo’s novel will slice into your coronary heart with an murderer’s unerring sense of path.


LMU English main graduate Ella Kelleher is the e book evaluate editor-in-chief and a contributing workers author for Asia Media Worldwide. She majored in English with a focus in multi-ethnic literature.

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