There’s no better way to relax during the summer than getting lost in the pages of a great book. If you’re in need of reading recommendations, you’ve come to the right place! During the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing staff selections in fiction and nonfiction. Happy summer — and happy reading!
Reviewed by Ryan Wallace, Earth & Planetary Sciences Library Associate
In 1744, at only 9 years old, Lady Hyegyŏng was chosen to be the wife of Prince Sado, the future king of Korea, and taken to live in the royal palace. Eighteen years later, Prince Sado was executed at the command of his father, King Yŏngjo, who ordered him to climb into a rice chest, where he died of starvation.
Korean historians are still divided over what led up to that dramatic moment. Was Sado the innocent victim of political enemies, or a mentally ill killer who was unable to control himself and unfit to rule? Lady Hyegyŏng’s Memoirs (University of California Press, 2013), which paint her husband as a sensitive, unstable young man desperate to please his father and prone to obsessive thoughts and delusions—and to cutting off people’s heads—are the chief evidence for the latter opinion.
The book covers Lady Hyegyŏng’s childhood and life as a princess and offers a fascinating look at the political intrigue and culture of the royal palace, as well as a firsthand account of her husband’s terrifying mental illness and tragic death. Haboush’s translation is excellent, and her extensive notes give the necessary historical and cultural context, so no special knowledge of Korean history is needed to understand Lady Hyegyŏng’s story. This is an excellent book for anyone interested in Korean history or women’s narratives.