The Color of Earth, by Kim Dong Hwa

Three stars for the series, but five stars for the first book alone. Read in September 2013.

There was quite a bit of buildup for this book before I was finally able to read it. I lived in Utah at the time, and I’d been hearing a lot about it in connection with Banned Books Week, but none of my local libraries had a copy. A friend who lived in Salt Lake City actually checked it out from the library there for me to borrow, but I was never able to meet up with her to get it. Finally, after moving to a different state, I worked in a library that owned the series.

I fell absolutely in love with the first book, The Color of Earth. The black and white artwork was so gorgeous that I kept turning pages long after I’d intended to go to bed, until I ended up just finishing it in one sitting. Ehwa is a young girl living with her widowed mother, seeing how her mother is looked down on for being single, watching her fall in love again. It’s lovely, and I couldn’t wait to pick up the sequels after reading it.

I found the second book, The Color of Water, so irritating compared to the first. Ehwa became a terrific brat, but much worse was that the talk turned exclusively to romance. In three hundred pages, I don’t think a single character said anything that wasn’t about women being flowers and men being butterflies, the wind, or a fire that must be tended. It was so, so boring. This is the tragedy of wanting to read women’s stories in patriarchy.

Finally, I flipped through The Color of Heaven just so I could see how it all ended. The depiction of Ehwa’s wedding night, at least, was artful and beautiful, if ridiculously dramatic.

I gave the first book five stars, and would still gladly recommend it on its own. I was so thrilled by it, and so disappointed by the other two. I gave them both two stars, so I compromised the rating for the whole series.

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