The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee

The Surrendered

Chang-Rae Lee

An epic, sprawling novel spanning the 1930s to the 80s; from Korea and China to New York and Italy. Even though I was prepared for a war story, I still found the bleak, vivid violence and despair deeply disturbing. Yet I felt compelled to continue, living alongside the 3 main characters – observing their physical and psychological hurt – not just by war but also by grief, loss, addiction and love.


But it was like anything else, for as disgusting as the tasks were, one grew accustomed to the abominable sights and smells and processes of the necessary operations: the way you'd have to tug just enough on a corpse's arms, say, if the rest of him was stuck in the dirt and a bit too ripened, so as not to pull them off completely; or how you'd pour hot water from a kettle and chip away carefully with a bayonet to release a poor bastard who was frozen facedown in snow and ice, the flesh falling off sometimes like shredded meat, and other times remaining absolutely preserved and perfect if he'd been there only a night or two. Or in the first days of the spring thaw how they'd find a mess of bodies in a ditch and could tell only from the uniforms if they were enemies or friendlies, and if friendlies maybe only from the hair colour whether they were white or black, because all of them had turned the color and sheen of licorice by then, the skin finely lacquered by the elements. Every man is a black man in the end, was the joke among them, which made for a bitter laugh and a moment's introspection before they'd continue traversing the slushy snowpack of the hillsides in search of newly exposed bodies.

  • After by Claire Tristram
  • Citizen One by Andy Oakes

Books with similar mood

Beside Myself

Ann Morgan


Mia Gallagher

Sea of Poppies

Amitav Ghosh

Citizen One

Andy Oakes

Born under Punches

Martyn Waites

Lies, First Person

Gail Hareven

The House of Impossible Beauties

Joseph Cassara

Easy Money

Jens Lapidus

Do Time Get Time

Andrey Rubanov

The Peacock Throne

Sujit Saraf

The Law of Dreams

Peter Behrens

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lionel Shriver


Natsuo Kirino


Murray Davies

Untied Kingdom

James Lovegrove

The Secret Hunters

Ranulph Fiennes


Giles Foden

Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow

Peter Hoeg

Beneath the Skin

Nicci French


Nicole Dennis-Benn

Not Thomas

Sara Gethin

Go, Went, Gone

Jenny Erpenbeck

Before, During, After

Richard Bausch

This is How

M J Hyland


Henry Flesh

Rainbow Milk

Paul Mendez

Star of the North

D B John


Jason Donald

The Undertaking

Audrey Magee

The Prague Cemetery

Umberto Eco

The Wasted Vigil

Nadeem Aslam

The Last Girl

Stephan Collishaw

The Quiet Violence of Dreams

K Duiker

Nineteen Eighty

David Peace


Yaa Gyasi

Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn

The Visionist

Rachel Urquhart

The Kills

Richard House

The Emperor of Lies

Steve Sem-Sandberg

The Children's Book

A S Byatt

The Warsaw Anagrams

Richard Zimler


Karl Marlantes

Strange Music

Laura Fish


Caron Freeborn

Taming the Beast

Emily Maguire

Always the Sun

Neil Cross

The Dogs of Riga

Henning Mankell


Courttia Newland

Blue Ticket

Sophie Mackintosh