BookBrowse Reviews Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

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Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee X
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2017, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Pachinko is a lush, expansive historical saga that explores the effects of world events and personal decisions on multiple generations of one Korean family.

Pachinko has one of the best opening lines I've encountered in some time: "History has failed us, but no matter." It's an unexpectedly cynical start to a historical novel, suggesting that every generation has to recreate itself after the letdown of the last one. For this fictional family, the pessimism is partially justified: although the specific challenges vary from one generation to another, being Korean in a foreign country is an ongoing struggle.

The novel opens in 1910, the year Japan annexed Korea, with an almost folktale-like scenario: in Yeongdo district, in the South Korean city of Busan, a fisherman and his wife have four sons, but only Hoonie, who has a cleft palate and clubfoot, survives. Hoonie marries and dies shortly thereafter leaving his 13-year-old daughter Sunja, and her mother, to run the family boardinghouse. During the hard winter of 1932, the sixteen-year-old ...

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