Book Review: This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park

29 Dec

Genre: Literary fiction, Historical fiction

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pub date:12 July 2011

Source: Publisher via

(This is a short review of a book I read a while ago and made notes on. I don’t have this book with me now, so you’ll notice the review is a little thin on the details.)


Soo-Ja Choi is a beautiful and intelligent young woman in postwar South Korea. Her ambition is to become a diplomat, but there is no way that her parents will agree to this. She decides to marry Min, a weak, timid man believing that she can convince him to let her do what she wants. But once they get married, she realises that she is the one who has been fooled. Min insists that they live with his parents and Soo-Ja’s life is all about taking care of them and being treated like an unwanted servant. What makes this even more heartbreaking for her is that just before marrying Min, she met a young medical student, Yul whom she was attracted to. She turned down his proposal to continue with her plans, but regrets this the minute she finds out what her situation is really going to be.

Soo-Ja must pay the price for making the wrong choice, but can she better her life and provide for her daughter?


I wish I had the book with me to refresh my memory and tell you some more about it, but here goes… What has stayed with me is the beautiful lyrical language in which This Burns My Heart is Written.

Soo-Ja is a character who makes an impact. Min has lied to her and her reality is completely at odds with what she hoped to make of her life. Her father-in-law loses all his money in the business, borrows from Soo-Ja’s father and flees to America leaving Min, Soo-Ja and their daughter behind. Soo-Ja finds a way to make money for her family while Min does nothing to help. Through all this Soo-Ja can’t help but think “what if”. She finds herself wondering about how her life would have been if she had accepted Yul’s proposal.

But the story is not all about regrets and tears. We see Soo-Ja’s strength and determination right from the beginning and bad luck and a loveless marriage doesn’t stop her. She finds ways to survive and all her energies are devoted to making sure that her daughter Hana has all the opportunities that she didn’t.

Soo-Ja is far from perfect, but the way she takes on life made me admire her. Min is not a straight “bad guy” either. Unable to break free of his duty as the oldest son and not having any personal drive or direction in life, he is pathetic, but someone you feel for at times.

Parks’ beautiful prose is what really made this book a delight for me to read. The story jumps forward months and years at a time, but the pacing was just right and the prose so enjoyable.


Highly recommended for all fans of literary fiction and character driven stories. This was one of my favourite reads of the year.

Rating: 5*

I received this book as a reviewer for

*See my Rating policy

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One Response to “Book Review: This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park”


  1. 2011: Bookish Snapshots « Stargazerpuj's Book Blog - December 30, 2011

    […] The Taker by Alma Katsu Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma This Burns My Heart by Samuel […]

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