The Color Trilogy comes to a close with The Color of Heaven, in which we bid adieu to Ehwa and her mother. There was nothing too shocking about this happy ending – no sudden twists or plot turns – but this series was never about shocking you. Though it looks like snow has more love powers than rain in this volume. Since the cover shows Ehwa in a wedding dress, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that our flower finally finds a butterfly to stay with her forever.
Ehwa and her mother are even closer in this volume as they both experience the heartache of waiting for loved ones. But not even sharing this pain lessens it for either of them, and they go about their days with the their faces always turned in another direction. Ehwa has some solace when she learns that she is the prettiest of her friends, as evidenced by her being the first girl whose hand is solicited in marriage. Maybe this would be more of a coup for her if they showed other village girls besides Bong Soon, but I’ll take their word for it.
There were some bittersweet moments which are inevitable any time someone grows up and has to say goodbye to her past before moving on. Also, I don’t think I was supposed to be so interested in a side story, but the vignette involving a servant boy and his mistress was pretty riveting – total spin-off potential. And really, what a missed opportunity with the acupuncturist’s son. Though my thinking so probably means that I missed the point of the story, but whatever.
All in all, this was a pretty entertaining (if not an instant classic) series about a young girl’s coming of age which happens almost simultaneously as her mother also experiences a second bloom. Some things seemed fake in this story, and I’m not sure if this was because I was in a less than wide-eyed mood as I read it, or if I’ve become too jaded by living in this day and age. For one thing, I could never really get behind how Kim Dong Hwa glorified waiting, especially in women. I’m so over that Madama Butterfly thing. It was hard not to get frustrated with the Picture Man, and then with Ehwa’s mom for putting up with everything. This volume tried to explain how the Picture Man thought more, but I couldn’t help thinking that he was just lame.
What was so interesting, was how K-drama-like it was. I haven’t seen many dramas from the pre-2003 (when the first volume was published in Korea) era, so I can’t say what influenced what – it’s like a chicken and the egg problem, right? You have the piggyback rides and the first loves, and the scenes of people attacking food. I was also strangely drawn to Ehwa’s (for lack of a better word) best friend, the spazzy and slightly gross Bong Soon (what a perfect country name – it appears often in Korean dramas too), who is Ehwa’s foil in many ways. She seems to be part of the tradition of the comic relief sidekick/lackey – poor Bong Soon.
I hadn’t expected the author to focus on makeup and skin care details, but they sprang up pretty organically when Ehwa and her friends got together. Fascinating. But I’m not sure how much I liked how the story didn’t even bother to skirt around the issue of illiteracy among women (especially of the lower classes) – it just never made it a problem at all. I guess little details like being able to read don’t really make much of a difference in a love story like this, sad to say.
I guess I liked these books enough to want to read his other works, especially his Gisaeng Tales. It looks like he hits the famous ones, like Hwang Ji Ni, but I’m sure there are many other fascinating stories just waiting to be read and made into great dramas. I get the feeling that I’ll find those books to be just like The Color Trilogy, but that’s not really a bad thing.