Running Snail by 蝶之灵 , 2009 , Completed.
Genre: Romance, Josie, Slice of life
Rating: 4 stars
I started out this review intending it to be short and concise, but after 2 pages I think I will have to revoke my claim on that one, so sorry guys you’re in for a read. If you did not know, I am currently doing the translation of Running Snail from the Vietnamese source. I should’ve posted my review of Running Snail before the release of the first chapter but I did the translation way before I even started on the review. Also with the way I write, it could’ve taken me a few days to weeks before I finished it, and as impatient as I am, I did not want to wait that long before I release the first chapter. As a disclaimer, this will be a thorough review, so it may contain spoilers.
Running Snail is a story about the nativity of a young girl’s first love, and the heartache and pain that inevitably occurs, when the relationship ends. With the passage of time, support of good friends and family, and the persistent devotion of a patient man, does her heart start to mend and love again. We are introduced to Ve Nam, our protagonist, as she is coerce into picking up and greeting Luc Song; a good friend of her brothers, from the train station, since he was unable to do so himself. She is task not only to welcome Luc Song with open arms, but to also cater to his every needs, as per her family’s instructions. Ve Nam the ever so obedient and filial, sister and daughter resigns herself reluctantly to the task of being the head of Luc Song’s welcoming committee. Ve nam’s initial impression of Luc Song was not a favorable one. From the very first meeting without any provocation on Ve Nams part, Luc Song blatantly exclaimed he has no interest in her whatsoever. This added with the treatment of her as his lackey (bossing her around to carry his luggage and etc…) caused Ve Nam to simmer with indignation. From then on Ve Nam’s public relationship with Luc Song (especially around her family), is one of utmost politeness and civility, but in private her facade of civility towards Luc Song is shrouded by taunts and playful mockery.
With Luc Song staying at her family’s home until he finds a place of his own, Ve Nam and Luc song find themselves manipulated and pressured by her mother to spend more and more time with each other. Battered by her mothers relentless insistence, Ve Nam insincerely asked Luc Song to hang out with her and her friends, believing he would politely refuse, but to her disappointment he accepted, and tagged along. During their outing, Luc Song accidentally witnessed her run in with her ex, and their consequential confrontation. He expertly inserted himself into the equation, defended Ve Nam and extracted her from the scene. For the remainder of the night, Ve nam was In a rather despondent and gloomy mood, with Luc Song’s encouragement Ve Nam decided to get drunk for the very first time, and as a result was able to cry and grieved over her first love without any restraints. Ironically, for Luc Song his proclamation of his uninterested in Ve nam turned out to be incorrect, when he finds himself falling in love with a girl who’s heart has already been taken and broken. The story progresses from there as Luc Song slowly implements his way into every aspect of Ve Nams life. He becomes a steady and reassuring presence for Ve Nam, as she slowly begins to mend her heart enough to finally see the man who’s been patiently and unabashedly waiting by her side all along.
This novel has a couple things going for itself. The first is characterization. This author’s ability to write realistic characters and plot lines, is one of her strengths. Often times, authors would direct most of their focus and concentration on creating and fleshing out a few characters, leaving the rest to fall short, but with Running Snail the author created an entire ensemble of memorable and realistic characters, (who I may not all like, but still am able to empathize with). Running Snail is a heavily character driven novel, the central conflict is basically Ve Nam’s past relationship and her journey towards healing. This is by no means an epic or grand love story, the most at stake here is perhaps the ML devotion not being reciprocated, so the sooner you understand what Running snail isn’t, the better you’ll come to appreciate it for what it is, a realistic modern romance novel.
I thought the protagonist Ve Nam was especially endearing. She is one of the better protagonist I’ve read in Chinese novels. I did not find myself irritated or annoyed by her actions at any point during the novel, this is an important factor for me because I need to be able to either respect, empathize or enjoy the character that the story is told through. No matter how swoon worthy the ML is, if I can’t abide the female lead, I will most likely drop the story. Ve nam as a character is quite playful, passive, mature and loyal. We can see her playfulness through her interactions with Luc Song, her passivity towards her family, her practically and maturity towards her first love, and her loyalty towards her friends. The emphasis on supportive female friendship in Running Snail was a delight for me, I was tired of the same old song and dance in romance novels where the majority of the supportive/side female characters are rivals for the ML affections or just plain evil and nasty as a whole. This trope is often used as lazy and cheap way to exalt the female lead, and its fine in small doses but the problem is the redundancy and saturation of it. So you can only imagine how refreshing and direly needed this novel was for me. Instead of veering off into that territory, Running Snail did the opposite and exalted the bond of female friendship, and because of it my appreciation and estimation for the novel rose significantly.
The book is broken up into 3 parts with the last being the longest. The first part of the book was spent setting up the story, introducing the characters, as well as chronicling the aftermath of Ve Nam’s breakup. The second part is spent on Ve nam’s return to school, her supportive friendship with her girlfriends, her interactions with Luc Song and run ins with her ex, Hua Chi Hang. The third part, is longest one with many events taking place, this is by far my favorite portion in the novel. In this arc, Ve Nam received the push she needed to finally lay Hua Chi Hang to rest. Throughout the novel Ve Nams display of indifference towards Hua Chi Hang was transparent. Her feelings for him was obvious with every run in and interaction they shared. Ve nams desire to move on was evident but her constant encounters with Hua Chi Hang set her back each time. It was an open and festering wound for her. However, with Hua Chi Hang moving to the states, it signaled the certainty of the end for them, which Ve nam dearly needed in order to move on. I have a lot of admiration for Ve Nam. Her decision to break off her relationship with her first love was a hard one to make, but her maturity and foresight in the situation where her brain and heart was at odds was brutal to watch but admirable nonetheless. This arc started out very intense, but gradually became more lighthearted as Ve Nam started her internship at the hospital, and her platonic living arrangements with Luc Song. If you enjoyed their banter and rapport before, then in this arch its turnt up many notches. Be prepared for lots of jokes, pranks, and overall fun.
I obviously can’t end this review without gushing about Luc song. He is a gentleman through and through. Yes, he often torments and teased Ve nam, but in the most playful and jestful way, plus our girl always gives as much as she gets so don’t go feeling sorry for her. The patience and gentleness that Luc Song has for Ve Nam is surprising in its depths. He understands that his affection may cause her undue stress and anxiety, so he refrains from voicing them. Nevertheless, he decides to stay by her side in a platonic and brotherly fashion, even if he wished otherwise, now If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is!!
As far as how Running Snail reads, I would say that it is not too intense or angsty of a novel (it’s definitely not a light and fluffy one). There are moments of intensity here and there, but it’s balanced out well by the comedic undertone and witty dialogue. The characters are what really shines through in this novel, the plot however, is quite ordinary and generic. If you’re looking for originality then you won’t find it here, you are here for the execution, and it is done well. As for the writing, it is well written and easy to follow, though nothing spectacular. I have two ratings for this novel, one is for the quality and the other is overall enjoyment. if based solely on quality then I would rate the novel a 3.8, but for overall enjoyment, it would be a 4. While I do think Running Snail is a solid romance novel, I believe it could’ve been excellent, if the story didn’t drag out at certain parts. I found myself screaming “get to the point” several times throughout the novel, and most importantly if the ending wasn’t so anti-climatic. The ending was of course a happy one, but it lacked the intensity and emotional explosion (for a lack of a better term) I was anticipating. It was at best alright, nonetheless still lackluster and just “meh” for me, but of course this may not be the case for everyone.
I was told that there are epilogues in Running Snail, the Vietnamese source did not translate them, so please take this into consideration, as I am only reviewing what I’ve read so far. I do think the epilogues would’ve added more to the ending and overall story, but until they are translated I can’t do much about it. To wrap up this review, I would suggest anyone who is looking for a well written, realistic, modern romance novel to check out Running Snail, you will not be disappointed.