Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474623568

Price: £9.99

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‘Dreamy, immersive and evocative’ TLS

‘Darkly beautiful’ Frances Cha

‘Strange and gripping’ Guardian

San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city centre.

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.

But over the course of one summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash co-worker, aggressive customers and an enigmatic magazine photographer. Fuelled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she dares, briefly, to dream of connection in an unforgiving world.

Translated by Anton Hur


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
Shin is known for revealing the ways in which her culture oppresses and isolates people - especially women
A formidable text on urban loneliness, suppressed queer desire and a haunting observation of the rapidly-changing country at the turn of the century. Originally written in 2001, this soon-to-be-released translation is a tragic yet moving work of fiction from one of Korea's finest writers that should be on your spring-summer reading list.
Vogue India
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
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
[Anton] Hur, who made his translated-novel debut with Shin's The Court Dancer (2018) and became an award-winning Korean-to-English powerhouse, returns to adroitly cipher her latest impressive import. 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)
Mesmerising, 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
Violets is a novel built on the proximity of beauty and violence . . . Shin finds indirect and nuanced ways to conjure the atmosphere of a place where flourishing is thwarted at every turn . . . There's a timeless, fable-like quality to the narration that makes the story strange and gripping.
Lara Feigel, Guardian
Reading Kyung-Sook Shin's Violets is a dreamlike experience. Translated lyrically by Anton Hur, it evokes the curious, detached sensation of moving-nearly floating-through a world that, despite its different logic, is grounded and punctuated with precise, vivid details, almost overwhelming in sudden close-up . . . a shimmering text that blends stark violence with delicate, considered language, preserving, with tender attention, a woman rejected and erased by society.
As a beautiful window on San's world Violets is like a perfectly detailed painting, but it also tells the heart-rending story of a hurt child growing up as a lonely outsider. For me now, with her tragedy so well-realised, Violets will stay with me, and those flowers will always make me think of her
Vashti Bunyan
Shin Kyung Sook tells us a story which takes place both in a foreign land and in a very familiar space in our hearts. Human beings' everlasting agony of "longing to belong" presents itself in every page of this book with intensity and with beauty. A subtle, deep, unique work of true literature
Defne Suman, author of The Silence of Scheherazade
An intimate portrait of isolation and unspoken desire. Darkly poetic, dreamlike and meditative, Kyung-Sook Shin's spellbinding tale captures the invisible life and longing of a country girl trapped in a rapidly changing city
Adelle Stripe, author of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile
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 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 Harmless Like You
A raw coming-of-age novel
Dreamy, immersive and evocative . . . What Shin does well in Violets . . . is the portrayal of the disappointments, desires, regrets and loneliness of everywoman characters on the fringes of society. San's failures - to get a respectable job, to have her own writing desk, to be acknowledged by the man she desires - are depicted with credibility and tenderness
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 Chemistry
'A disturbing and evocative look at an isolated young woman . . . With sensuous prose intuitively translated by [Anton] Hur, Shin vividly captures San's tragic failure to connect with others. This is hard to put down'
Publishers Weekly