It’s 1954 and outcast Alice Kim works as a translator for the US Army. She struggles to keep on keeping on after the horrors of war and the emotional wounds from her earlier romantic affairs. Alice gets chosen to translate for Marilyn Monroe who’s coming to Korea to entertain the troops, who remain.
Nervous, emotional and guilt-ridden, Alice feels alienated. A young woman, whose past haunts her must deal with seeing her past lovers and tries to track down an orphan she promised to care for.
While the story’s full of angst, I felt it lacked authenticity, which is surprising since the author researched war diaries and other primary sources. I felt there was too little Marilyn Monroe in the book and thought those chapters were based on stereotypes. I think Monroe was in the story to make it marketable.
The love triangle and the emotional crash that ensued when the married lover caught her in bed with her other lover didn’t endear Alice to me. She lacked the insight to figure out her own responsibility even though all the dots where there. I didn’t find the spy work compelling either.
I prefer Lisa See’s, Jung Chang’s and Winston Graham’s historical fiction. Ji-Min Lee’s The Starlet and the Spy is not a novel you must read.