It is second nature for book lovers and romantics to fall in love with the Korean dramady “Romance is a Bonus Book.” This 16-episode paean to love and books features the long-term friendship between a young boy and a slightly older girl who drift apart over time. After an unsuccessful marriage and a child, heroine Kang Dan-i becomes destitute, eventually meeting once again the successful writer and publishing editor from her youth, Cha Eun-ho.
The story revolves around the complex relationship experienced by the two, his unrequited love for her and her somewhat oblivious “friends only” feelings for him. This exquisite push-pull story revolves around books, publishing, and bookstores. Here, books are used as a metaphor to show the emotional way people relate to each other. To illustrate, Eun-ho reflects, “I read Dan-i’s favorite book to understand her. That’s how I learned more about her.”
Under the stars, Eun-ho tells Dan-i, “The moon is beautiful” and explains that this is what people in the Japanese culture say to each other to express their love rather than use the actual phrase. At first, his words are lost on Dan-i, but her self-revelations about books, learning and life lead to her heart-felt awakening. At last, she understands.
Pages of character sketches filled with moving and perceptive quotes turn to open each episode, called a “volume,” and are also presented within dialogue throughout until the “book” ends. Some words of wisdom are:
Volume 4 – We all like books. We wait for someone to find us and open us and see what’s inside.
Volume 7 – Life stories, whispers and communications are reasons to like small bookstores.
Volume 8 – Opening a new book is like opening a room full of my favorite things.
– Only after finishing the book can I see what I missed and life goes on the same.
Volume 16 – A book that inspires others may not always inspire you, so find a book that does.
Literally, the last piece of advice is the most astute given, the absolute truth about relationships. On that, we can close the cover of the story within this book.
If we, the viewers, read between the lines, we will continue to find sage advice about life and love in so many novel ways.
Keep reading books you love.
“Romance is a Bonus Book” on Netflix (2019)