Kim’s fast-paced, witty, and extremely involving novel is set in feudal 19th-century Korea, in the household of wealthy Mr. O, whose first wife, Mistress Kim, dies in childbirth as the story opens. This sad event triggers a power struggle in the house’s elaborate social structure, and the novel lays out an ambitiously complex web of social and interpersonal dynamics. The master’s second wife, Mistress Yee and her maid Taehee, for instance, begin scheming for more influence, and those schemes are resisted by the maid Nani and her stalwart mentor, Mrs. Huang – and all the while, outside the household, peasants are growing restless and Scottish missionaries are attempting to make inroads into the country. Kim handles all these interweaving plotlines with an easy, chatty skill – this book reads like a (slightly!) more modern version of The Tale of Genji, at once intimate and universal. Highly recommended.