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Pachinko (2017)

by Min Jin Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6631992,550 (4.07)287
"A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (doryfish)
    doryfish: A man marries a woman already pregnant with another's child and they immigrate together.
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» See also 287 mentions

English (196)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (199)
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
Sunja is a modern literary treasure. A timeless story that enlightened me about Japanese-Korean relations. ( )
  dele2451 | Jun 13, 2021 |
In 1910 the Japanese occupied Korea, beginning a decades-long colonization that only ended at the conclusion of World War II. Throughout this time, as life in Korea became increasingly difficult and food scarcities more widespread, many Koreans emigrated to Japan to seek a better life, but for most Koreans, life in Japan was equally harsh, and the discrimination they faced was daunting. Even second- and third-generation Korean Japanese were denied citizenship and struggled to find acceptance. Pachinko parlors were one of the few places where Koreans could find jobs. Although gambling is illegal in Japan, pachinko parlors were, and remain, big businesses, often associated with the yakuza.

Pachinko begins in the early 1900s and ends in 1989, three generations later. The novel opens in Jeongda, an island off Busan, where Hoonie the fisherman is more concerned about feeding his family than the politics of colonization. His daughter, Sunja, meets a sophisticated Japanese-speaking businessman, and her innocent life is set on a new trajectory. She marries a Christian minister, who takes her to Osaka, where she and her family will live throughout the rest of the occupation period, World War II, and the Korean War. Buffeted by historical events, economic hardships, and discrimination, her children and grandchildren struggle to find success and happiness in a culture that never fully accepts them.

There was much about Pachinko that I loved. The author did years of historical research and interviews with Koreans living in Japan, and her efforts show. The plot touches on many of the events of the time without seeming forced, and the themes of assimilation, what it means to be successful, generational conflict, and being a minority Christian are handled deftly. The characters are well-developed and vivid, and I had no trouble keeping track of who was who, unlike in some family sagas. The tone was of quiet strength, exemplified by the women who held the family together. Some readers felt the last third of the book, dealing with the third generation of characters, was less interesting or engaging. I felt like it was a natural development, as the old mores gave way to foreign education and modern sensibilities. It may not have been as romantic, but it felt real.

My only quibble is that I found myself putting it down for long periods of time before picking it up again, but I think the fault lies with me not the book. If I had read it at a different time, perhaps I would have remained better engaged. ( )
  labfs39 | Jun 12, 2021 |
A beautiful family-saga that spans generations, exploring the struggles and successes of Koreans and their relationship with Japan. The characters are well developed and as a reader I felt like I was along for the ride with all of their up's and down's, as well as life-changing events. The female characters are amazing; resilient, caring, smart and loving, and a major part of the novel is a love story between two unlikely people, a Korean girl and her Japanese lover, full of bittersweet romance. This book is long but it was necessary to really delve into the different eras of Korean/Japanese relations. I think this book is good for a reader who likes historical fiction, romance, and family drama - kind of reminded me of Colleen McCollough's The Thorn Birds. If that's what you like, I highly recommend! ( )
  TenkaraSmart | Jun 8, 2021 |
Follow four generations of change in Sunja and Isak's family tree as the forces of the larger world create obstacles and opportunity in Korea and Japan. While this is a work of historical fiction, characters and plot carry the story rather than historical detail.

Read this book if you enjoy family sagas, detailed characters, or historical fiction. It may leave you pondering chance, circumstance, personal choice, and fate. ( )
  VaterOlsen | May 23, 2021 |
"History has failed us, but no matter" belongs up there in the pantheon of opening lines, and it's especially apt, given that this is not quite a "historical novel", but a novel which uses the vicissitudes of real history - the Japanese occupation and annexation of Korea, the migration of Koreans to Japan for work, the devastation of WW2, the partition of Korea - to follow an ordinary Korean peasant family from the very early part of the 20th century near to its end as successive generations experience poverty, fall in love, settle in Japan, try to make money, survive wars, encounter racism, and, most of all, try to turn their sorrows into fulfilling lives. Korean history is something I have large gaps of understanding in relative to Japanese and Chinese history, particularly prior to WW2, so I would have appreciated this novel even if it hadn't been so affecting. Many questions of Korean identity are raised repeatedly by Koreans, South Koreans, North Koreans, and Korean-Japanese; I don't have any special take on that, but for me the pleasure of the novel lies in how these lovingly rendered characters make their choices, and how those choices define their lives but also present new opportunities even when they're really painful. Pachinko is, of course, a popular game for gamblers, and the central idea that fate and freedom are present in every moment is very movingly presented here. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Min Jinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lecq, Paul van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leger, PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lenting, InekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, BrigidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration.
-Charles Dickens
Dedication
For Christopher and Sam
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History has failed us, but no matter.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity"--

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In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant-and that her lover is married-she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
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