One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun is a captivating book that combines magical realism and social criticism to create a spooky and unforgettable reading experience. The story is set in a modern Korean city and tracks two young friends as they fight against gentrification and keep their way of life.
The novel centers around the friendship between Eun-gyo and Mujae, two young people who work at a dilapidated electronics market on the outskirts of the city. Plans for redevelopment pose a threat to the market, and vendors and store owners are under pressure to move. The two friends learn that they have a peculiar and unsettling ability to see shadows of people and things that have been left behind by the forces of modernization as they fight against the changes and hold on to their way of life.
The combination of societal commentary and magical realism in One Hundred Shadows is what makes it so compelling. Hwang’s prose is incredibly evocative, perfectly capturing the city’s vibe as well as the characters’ feelings of upheaval and confusion. The novel’s magical components are used effectively as a metaphor for the ways in which gentrification and modernization can obliterate a community’s history and culture.
The book also has a diverse cast of characters, each with his/her own backstory and point of view. Both Eun-gyo and Mujae are interesting and likable because they are dealing with the challenges of adapting to a new and unfamiliar environment. The novel’s supporting cast, which includes shopkeepers and locals, is equally well-realized and vividly depicted.
One Hundred Shadows is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant novel that poses significant issues about identity, community, and resistance. The unease and doubt that come with times of social and cultural change are beautifully and unsettlingly captured in Hwang’s writing. Highly recommended for anyone interested in social commentary, magical realism, or just a wonderful book that will make them think long after they’ve finished reading it.