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. (Goodreads synopsis)
Pachinko is a family saga that starts in 1910 and goes through the 1980s. We start the story with a girl who gets pregnant by a married man and then a Protestant minister comes to her boarding house and offers to marry her. Then the story continues from there. This is an excellent book.
Min Jin Lee was able to create characters that you root for and care about and want to understand their motivations. In addition to that she seamlessly weaves in the history of the Japanese occupation of Korea and what was going on in Japan and Korea during the World Wars and after. There was not a point in this story that I felt lagged. Every time I picked up this book I would read it in large chunks which I think helped to immerse me in the story.
I found it very interesting learning about the racism that happened in Japan against Koreans and how Koreans would often try to “pass” as Japanese so they could work and live without all of the additional regulations that Koreans had to go through. Also, found it interesting seeing how Korean people didn’t know what was going on in North Korea after the borders were closed. The book talks about religion, racisim, and family dynamics. I was completely all in for this family and learning about Korean traditions.
As someone who doesn’t read a lot of historical fiction I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend Pachinko. This book is totally worth the time that it takes to read it and it never once felt like a nearly 500 page book.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Let’s chat in the comments.