Book Review: Tongue by Kyung Ran Jo

Tongue by Kyung Ran JoTongue: What it is about

From the back of the book: “Emotionally raw and erotically charged, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a young chef’s gourmet journey toward self-restoration and revenge.

When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, Jeong Ji-won shuts down the cooking school she runs from their home and sinks deep into depression, loosing her will to cook, her desire to eat and even her ability to taste.

Returning to the kitchen of the Italian restaurant where her career began, she slowly rebuilds her life, rediscovering her appreciation of food and all its sensual pleasures. She also starts to devise a plan for a final, vengeful act of culinary seduction.

A mesmerizing chronicle of one woman’s recovery from heartbreak, Tongue  is at once shocking and profoundly familiar.”

Tongue: What I thought

This is a beautifully written book that I enjoyed very much. Jeong Ji-won is an interesting woman: she’s very vulnerable and revengeful after her boyfriend has left her, but she’s also a very good cook. When she goes back to her previous job, at an Italian restaurant in Seoul, the employees there respect her for who she is and soon she’s back cooking wonderful dishes.

I loved the way food is described, very sensual: the way something smells, what it looks like, how it feels on the tongue, etc. I don’t agree with the description that the book is erotically charged, unless in relation to food – food items were sometimes talked about almost in an erotic way.

Although Jeong is depressed about her boyfriend leaving, he doesn’t exactly deal in a sensitive way with the situation. He offers his new girlfriend (not a cook) the chance to start her own cooking school (just like Jeong had). He was not a nice person and I couldn’t blame Jeong for wanting to take revenge. She just seemed a little too lethargic to undertake any action. So I was surprised when she did.

The writer is from South Korea and I think this is the first book I’ve read by an author from that country. There was very little that was typical about the country in this book, so you could see it as an international novel that is not strongly bound to a particular country.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 214

First published: 2007 (South Korea: Hyeo; 2009 this US edition)

I got this: from Chinoiseries at a book blogger meeting

Genre: contemporary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Book Review: Tongue by Kyung Ran Jo

  1. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas) says:

    This sounds perfect for a food-lover like me – I do enjoy reading about food as much as eating it!

  2. harvee says:

    i enjoyed the memoir by Kim Sunee. Korean American chef, who wrote Trail of Crumbs. And I would certainly be interested in this novel. Nice review.

  3. Isi says:

    The cover and the title sound strange, but well, I see you really enjoyed it! I loved the thing about being erotic with the food 😀 I also love food (in a non-erotic way, I suppose)

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