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Reviewed by Tina Stanciu for Readers' Favorite
The Tale of a Lost Romantic in Seoul by Steve Justice is a novel as remarkable as its title that tells the story of a middle-aged English professor and his struggles to come to terms with his normal and nice but unhappy life. Trapped in a marriage that was never his desire, enslaved by a job that only brings routine and disillusion, living in a country with no excitement, he decides to abandon his perfectly fine life and move to South Korea with the hope of a new and stimulating life. Unfortunately, his new life will only bring the same meaningless routine and the same feelings of discontent; in fact, all that changed was the landscape. His life only begins to find its meaning when he encounters a younger woman, and realizes that could be the intellectual match he has been looking for all along. Intelligence and youth are powerful aphrodisiacs and the professor would soon find out how much darkness and hurt can be caused by an oppressed and tortured soul.
To say that The Tale of a Lost Romantic in Seoul is a beautifully written psychological thriller with an unforeseen outcome is an understatement. Resembling Nabokov’s Lolita, Steve Justice’s novel has a way of making you get into the protagonist’s mind, and even if there may be time when you guess the outcome, the professor comes along and pushes you back into his world of disillusion and false hope. The slow pace of the story complements the psychological profiles of the characters and keeps readers from anticipating the ending. Even if in the beginning you would find it hard to empathize with the professor, by the time you read more than half way you find yourself so deep into his head that you would not have it any other way.
The professor sees himself as a lost romantic, a hero on a mission to find the one he loves and to offer her eternal happiness; all that gets in the way is a string of obstacles that he has to overcome in order to have his happy-ever-after, no matter who he ends up hurting in the process. This book was a pleasure from cover to cover, and even though it is not a story with a happy ending, it offers everything a good psychological thriller should.