Pachinko


This multigenerational family saga by Min Jin Lee is very good and quite a feat considering the breadth and complexities of the narrative. Published in 2017, Pachinko begins in 1910 in the Yeongdo district of Busan, Korea. Sunja, the novel's predominant character, later moves to the Ikaino district of Osaka, Japan in 1933. As time passes, all the way to 1989, we get to know her family well. We see their hardships brought on by poverty, racism, stereotypes, aging, gender inequality, and war as well as the boundaries they come up against belonging to a group often rejected or unacknowledged by their own communities in North and South Korea and in Japan. It's a fictional history of ordinary people that feels remarkably real and consistently honest. And the continuous interplay of the characters, both major and minor, plus the seamless progression of the narrative throughout the story's eight decades, work very well. I'd recommend Pachinko not only to those interested in the Korean diaspora and Japan but also to anyone who enjoys a hefty but artfully paced and well-structured novel.

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