An epic tale of an enigmatic land – Korea – and one woman’s search for her past.
Uncle Hong-do arrives in Vermont from Korea to see the sister he has never met, a concert violinist long settled in America. His colourful visit turns his teenage niece Anna’s world upside down, disrupting her cosy existence with his eccentric customs, forcing into it a fresh and intriguing tang of Korea. Then, too soon, he returns to Seoul.
When Anna leaves for the orient many years later to uncover her family’s elusive history, her departure stirs up vivid, shocking memories for her mother, of her gilded childhood in Korea and the story of her noble clan’s fall from power.
Long ago, her grandfather, Lord Min, commanded his own private armies and his vast estates straddled North and South. In defiance of centuries of barbarous invasions – by the Japanese, Manchus, and finally the Communists – he built a temple high in the mountains, and planted one thousand chestnut trees to shield it from view. Now, generations later, his trees call back his great-granddaughter, and Anna sets out with Uncle Hong-do to find the hidden temple.
A powerful mixture of memoir and fiction – the ‘Wild Swans’ of Korea.
Reviews of One Thousand Chestnut Trees
- ‘A startlingly impressive debut. This marvellous – and very moving – book tells its Korean story stylishly and with great skill.’ William Trevor
- ‘A warm and warming evocation of landscape and memory. Stout’s lively sense of language and culture shows her to be a writer of great promise.’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘Stout’s descriptions bring Korea’s stately, cultured civilization and heavenly landscape into sharp focus like a jewel-colored miniature.’ Independent on Sunday
- ‘Mira Stout not only grapples with the deep conundrum that is mixed-race identity, but also grabs with both hands the extraordinary history of turbulent twentieth-century Korea. The writing is encrusted with details like colored sequins. An extremely ambitious first book.’ The Times
- ‘The story of the family’s survival is gripping and horrifying, all the more terrifying because it is told with the calm recollection of authenticity. This is a wonderful [book], vibrant and funny, moving and immensely exciting.’ Glasgow Herald
- ‘There is much to enjoy – witty observations on cultural differences and gripping accounts of violence and upheaval. Mira Stout has an extremely important tale to tell.’ Observer