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Pachinko PDF, ePub eBook 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 t 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. Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

30 review for Pachinko

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    Alright, after thinking about this one for the last 24 hours or so, I think I've figured out how to articulate what I didn't like about it. But first I want to start with the stuff I did really enjoy. The book taught me a lot about the dynamic between Koreans & Japanese, especially in the early to mid-20th century. I had no idea about any of the historical context within which this book was set. And I found learning about it, especially as the author traced these themes and historical element Alright, after thinking about this one for the last 24 hours or so, I think I've figured out how to articulate what I didn't like about it. But first I want to start with the stuff I did really enjoy. The book taught me a lot about the dynamic between Koreans & Japanese, especially in the early to mid-20th century. I had no idea about any of the historical context within which this book was set. And I found learning about it, especially as the author traced these themes and historical elements through the lives of her main characters, to be a fascinating experience and probably one of the most educational novels I've read in a while. The attention to detail was also excellent. I felt like the author created really grounded settings for the characters, and I enjoyed seeing how she moved the story forward with historical shifts and how that reflected in the fate of her characters' lives. Alternatively, that same thing I enjoyed sort of ruined the experience for me. Because she covers SO much history and SO many characters—in, albeit, a quite lengthy book (nearly 500) pages—I never felt connected to anyone in particular. I thought it started out alright, picked up around page 80 and stayed strong for the remainder of that section. But then we jumped in time so much and through so many characters, that I never understood why I should care about them, only that they were related to previous characters. Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing does something similar, but her time period shifts are consistent and contained, and there is a more linear and clear understanding of how and why she is moving the story along in that way. With Pachinko we moved from character to character through the years with no real explanation as to why we are back with them. So I'm left wondering, "what about that other character? Where did they go? When will we see them again, if ever?" And on top of that, she literally ends chapters or sections of the book with something along the lines of [not a real spoiler, just an example]: "And then he died." And we find out in the next chapter that 5 years have passed, we are seeing everything from some other characters perspective, all this stuff in their lives has changed, and the dead character is briefly mentioned and never returned to. I found it frustrating to follow, ultimately unsatisfying, and a sort of cheap way to tell a story. It's like she tried to inject all the drama of these big life events—pregnancies, death, runaway family members, etc.—without justifying or following through with any of it. The writing style was very straight forward. It suited the story since overall it was a detached 3rd person telling the narrative of the generations of this family and their lives. But I didn't find the writing to be compelling enough to look forward to picking up the book. If I don't have either amazing characters or plot, I want really good writing, and this was just okay. I know a ton of people have loved this book and given it 4 or 5 stars, but I just didn't feel that way about it. Maybe it was overhyped for me, and in combination with the things I've said above it just didn't affect me in the same way. But I'm glad others are enjoying it, and if you aren't bothered by those elements in a story you will probably really enjoy this. It definitely has a lot of stuff going on, is clearly well-researched and sweeping, but I felt like it didn't have enough of a thread to convince me to pull for it. It just ended up unraveling as it went along and I lost interest.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    History has failed us, but no matter. Look, I get it. A lot of people won't be interested in this book because they have no idea what pachinko means and what exactly is going on with that cover, anyway? We are highly susceptible to marketing techniques and the cover and title give us pretty much nothing. But hear me out for a minute because this book is really good. This is a historical family saga set in Korea and Japan throughout the 20th century. It follows four generations of a Korean family History has failed us, but no matter. Look, I get it. A lot of people won't be interested in this book because they have no idea what pachinko means and what exactly is going on with that cover, anyway? We are highly susceptible to marketing techniques and the cover and title give us pretty much nothing. But hear me out for a minute because this book is really good. This is a historical family saga set in Korea and Japan throughout the 20th century. It follows four generations of a Korean family through the political turmoil of Japanese colonization, the hardship of wartimes, seeking a new and better life in Japan, and witnessing the home they left become divided into two countries they hardly recognize. As someone who knows very little about Korean history, this book was absolutely fascinating. Rich, detailed characterization draws us into the lives of these people and, at least for me, teaches us a chapter of modern history we might not have been aware of. Many Koreans found themselves forced to move to Japan to find jobs for their families, but they faced discrimination and disgusting living conditions when they arrived. Pachinko, we soon find out, is a kind of Japanese arcade game, and working in a pachinko parlor was considered a typical job for a Korean looking to get ahead. Many Japanese looked down upon pachinko parlor workers, viewing them as shady and dishonest - or just, you know, Korean. And this is something Solomon must understand. We can be deported. We have no motherland. Life is full of things he cannot control so he must adapt. My boy has to survive. It was both interesting and deeply saddening to hear about what these people went through, how easy it was for Koreans to be imprisoned indefinitely without trial. And after years of hardship and discrimination, after pushing through and finally earning enough money to have stability, many could never go back. Korean-Japanese (third, fourth, fifth generation even) were refused citizenship in Japan but most came from North Korea, a place they could no longer safely return to. This is both a fictional and a true story. The fictional characters the author creates come sparking off the page - from the resilient Sunja who once foolishly believed in the love of an older man, to Noa who will never quite recover from the dishonor of his lineage, to Solomon who is still trying to escape the negative stereotypes associated with Koreans many years after his grandmother arrived in Japan. And it is a true story because much of this book was the reality for many Koreans. A deeply affecting read and a look at an area of history oft-forgotten outside of East Asia. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    What a marvelous, deeply engrossing novel about four generations of a Korean family in Japan. There was a lot of story here and a lot of history (of which I was woefully ignorant) and it is all rendered in impeccable prose with a touch of steeliness. Toward the end of the novel, things started to feel a bit rushed, not enough time with the characters. And certain folks just fell away but such is the nature of a sprawling multi-generational novel. I read this in one day because I simply could not What a marvelous, deeply engrossing novel about four generations of a Korean family in Japan. There was a lot of story here and a lot of history (of which I was woefully ignorant) and it is all rendered in impeccable prose with a touch of steeliness. Toward the end of the novel, things started to feel a bit rushed, not enough time with the characters. And certain folks just fell away but such is the nature of a sprawling multi-generational novel. I read this in one day because I simply could not put it down. By far one of the best books I've read this year.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    A very enjoyable lengthy historical fiction! *A Jewel*!!!!! Some days Sunja, daughter of the owner of a boardinghouse in Korea, felt chills when she was growing her secret child. If she had agreed to remain the mistress of the rich man in Japan whom she got pregnant with - who was married with 3 children -- she could have been taken care of - and the needs for her child would be met. However - Sunja couldn't agree to the arrangement. She couldn't imagine sharing her life with a man who has anothe A very enjoyable lengthy historical fiction! *A Jewel*!!!!! Some days Sunja, daughter of the owner of a boardinghouse in Korea, felt chills when she was growing her secret child. If she had agreed to remain the mistress of the rich man in Japan whom she got pregnant with - who was married with 3 children -- she could have been taken care of - and the needs for her child would be met. However - Sunja couldn't agree to the arrangement. She couldn't imagine sharing her life with a man who has another wife & family. Another boarder, Isak, offers to marry Sunja and raise her unborn child as his own. After conversations they have - including sharing with Sunja's mother wanting her blessing--Sunja concludes Isak is not a fool as her mother feared at first - but an angel. Isak had one request. He believed strongly in his Korean Christian faith. Isak and Sunja traveled to Japan where they would live. Isak was going to become the new young pastor in Japan. As Korean immigrants in Japan - Sunja, Isak and their young child, Noa, face challenges living in Japan. Koreans are discriminated against by the local Japanese. It's not easy to be a pastors wife. Korean's must be on their BEST BEHAVIOR. "One bad KOREAN RUINS IT FOR THOUSANDS EVERYWHERE and one bad Christian hurts tens of thousands of Christians everywhere". Christianity in Japan is among the nations minority religions. Sunja had to be PERFECT..... always on her best behavior. Being Korean, Christian Faith, and a pastor's wife.... she had three strikes against her from the start of 'becoming' a mother living in Japan. Once in Japan, the family faced many struggles - hard to find work was a major concern....fears of how to get by financially. They were living in poverty, racism, ....but what was really sad to me was the stress that grew 'within' the family... as the family grew --in years and in numbers. To me -- there are two stories going on - side by side: A political-historical story between the cultures - and relations between Korean and Japan from the early 1900's to the present day --- focusing especially on the period when Korea was under the Japanese occupation. I have a theory why many people don't know much about this history. It's my personal thoughts that one of the reasons American's know so little -- is that Pearl Harbor came shortly after this time --and it seems to me that wars prior that time - just before - were in the shadows - forgotten about in history. The Rape of Nanking is another example of a long forgotten period of history -- when the Japanese invaded China in the early 1930s. The other story going on in Pachinko -- is the personal family story. The 'blurp' to this book says it best: "One Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea. "A sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history". "Members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity". I really cannot express this novel any better...... unless I begin to give spoilers ..... For those who read it--- am I the only person left with questions about Noa? Its my opinion that this book is best read when you have a long weekend. Best to curl up and spend long days reading - get swept away. The writing is lush --gorgeous- - Min Jin Lee has written a sublime line soap opera about the ways in which people treat one another ---abandon and save one another. There is a message of hope and love. Beautiful!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    One of the most brilliant and heartbreaking books I have ever read, I would like to thank Min Jin Lee for writing Pachinko and starting my 2018 with this splendid saga. Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family who move to Japan amidst Japanese colonization and political warfare. The novel starts with Sunja, the beloved daughter of a poor yet well-respected family, whose unplanned pregnancy has the potential to bring great shame upon her life. After she learns that the baby's father a One of the most brilliant and heartbreaking books I have ever read, I would like to thank Min Jin Lee for writing Pachinko and starting my 2018 with this splendid saga. Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family who move to Japan amidst Japanese colonization and political warfare. The novel starts with Sunja, the beloved daughter of a poor yet well-respected family, whose unplanned pregnancy has the potential to bring great shame upon her life. After she learns that the baby's father already has a wife, she refuses to stay with him and instead marries a sickly and kind minister who moves with her to Japan. Throughout the novel we see the consequences of this choice, both through the joys of this family as they support and survive with one another, as well as the challenges and losses they experience as Korean immigrants in an unforgiving new country. I feel so humbled and impressed by how Lee intertwines the personal and the political in Pachinko. She develops characters with deep emotions and complex yet clear motivations. She then shows how these characters' lives are impacted by issues such as racism and xenophobia, classism and gender discrimination, body image and intergenerational trauma, and more. Lee pulls this style of writing off so well because she captures, with elegant and straightforward prose, how these oftentimes abstract concepts directly affect her characters. We see how Sunja fights in every way possible to ensure a good life for her children even in the face of consistent barriers related to her gender. We see how Noa struggles to reclaim his identity after a blinding betrayal in a country that devalues Korean individuals. We see how all of these characters' love for one another is tested by history and the forces of prejudice, discrimination, and disenfranchisement. Lee writes the most captivating scenes, introspections, and dialogue that reveal her characters' hearts even when the world around them contains so much chaos. I also want to commend Lee for the resilience she imbues her characters with. Despite the persistent sexism and racism they experience, Lee shows how the perseverance of women, the strength within female friendships, and the power of individual action all can create and maintain love within a messed up society. She does not minimize or glorify the suffering her characters face. Rather, with compassion and empathy, she reveals how her characters adapt and strive to thrive and love one another amidst all of their hardships. In the acknowledgements section of the book, Lee shares that this story has been with her for almost 30 years. I can see all that time within these pages, as the love and effort she has poured into this book and its multiple drafts comes across clear as day. Overall, a fantastic novel I would recommend to everyone. I could write multiple essays about different parts of this book (e.g., the role and economic implications of pachinko parlors, the tenacity of women and female friendships, the intergenerational transmission of trauma and social status, etc.) but I will just say that a book club could discuss this one for hours and hours. As a second generation Vietnamese American living in the United States, I have felt so inspired by Lee's book to think about my family's many sacrifices coming to the United States, as well as the ways I have coped with and adapted to various forms of racism and colonization. I am excited to see what other reads 2018 brings, and I already know Pachinko will stand as one of my favorites.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    One of the things I like about reading well written historical fiction is that it can take me to another time and place and can be a profound learning experience. I knew close to nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 through WWII. Last year I read Tiger Pelt which introduced me to this time in Korea which was horrific in so many ways for the Koreans. While this novel begins in a village in Korea, most of the story takes place in various places in Japan, but this is a Korean st One of the things I like about reading well written historical fiction is that it can take me to another time and place and can be a profound learning experience. I knew close to nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 through WWII. Last year I read Tiger Pelt which introduced me to this time in Korea which was horrific in so many ways for the Koreans. While this novel begins in a village in Korea, most of the story takes place in various places in Japan, but this is a Korean story about four generations of a family spanning decades. I found myself easily engaged because I was so taken with the strength of this family who are living a difficult life of hard work, barely keeping a roof over their heads and meager food on the table. Hoonie, a young man with physical disabilities finds happiness in an arranged marriage to Yanglin. A daughter, Sunja is born bringing joy, then heartache. It is Sunja's story that takes us to Japan and expands into a family saga of her children and their children. So many things are depicted here - family bonds and love that moved me to tears at times, the discrimination of Koreans, even those born in Japan, culture and religion, identity, not just based on your birth place but who your family is . While this is about that experience of Koreans in that time and place, it is ultimately about good, honest, caring people who manage to move through their lives as they deal with the things that life hands out to everyone including illness, death, disappointments. I was curious about the meaning of the title. What does Pachinko mean? "Pachinko (パチンコ?) is a type of mechanical game originating in Japan and is used as both a form of recreational arcade game and much more frequently as a gambling device, filling a Japanese gambling niche comparable to that of the slot machine in Western gaming." (Wikipedia) It becomes clear in the novel what Pachinko is to this family as it becomes a business some of the characters are in. More than that, I saw it as a metaphor for so much of what happens. Every decision made by the characters is taking a chance, a chance that they hope will move them forward, will give them a good life in spite of the hard things they endure. Isn't that what most of us do? This is a long novel and while the last part was not as gripping to me as the first two thirds, I recommend you take a chance on it. I received an advanced copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing through NetGalley.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Just having finished this behemoth in the last hour, I want to put a disclaimer first. That reading this over a longer period of time than I would usually read a book, even of this length, probably made me MORE analytic than for my usual review. Or reaction. More critical. Because I truly wanted to give it a higher star value. I really did! But I cannot. So don't be scared away from reading it, because I am specific or amused for some of the tangents she took. Take it with a grain of salt. Espec Just having finished this behemoth in the last hour, I want to put a disclaimer first. That reading this over a longer period of time than I would usually read a book, even of this length, probably made me MORE analytic than for my usual review. Or reaction. More critical. Because I truly wanted to give it a higher star value. I really did! But I cannot. So don't be scared away from reading it, because I am specific or amused for some of the tangents she took. Take it with a grain of salt. Especially if you are not the kind of reader that is bothered by vastly changing style of approach within one book. I am! The first third of this book is nearly a 5 star perfection for character development, place reality, era feel, and boding wars of surround. In cultural mix and clash, in politico straining for the working day existence in Korea (Busan) under Japanese governmental domination. Isak is a saint. His landlady and Sunja- they are sublime and so real. You know them as you have known a Scarlet O'Hara or a Dorothy in Kansas. I'll remember them. And those two married couples and their ultimate striving, movements and eventual Osaka, Japan bound lives. Leaving Korea and the death sentence that Christian belief insured. The world at war a mere background, but closer wars and constant work their every breath. And then the second third of the book. The boys' stories. Hansu, yes- but mainly the boys' years of their growing up in Osaka. The Japanese defeat years within Japan with their Korean ethnicity. This is clear and yet convoluted. Not linear and direct as the first part. But yet, it is 4 star in the friends of each, the characters of mentoring, the parents and the Aunties' core purposes. The differences of languages and custom and most of all- for association and work. It's a good wider tale, and well done, kept my interest. Which gives out eventually in this parsing for a wider look at Osaka and the upcoming Pachinko connections for family support. Just a game in a parlor! But in doing so, the epic length and detail for this family is becoming broader, although shallower- much like a river near its delta- it's becoming defused and silt laden. The pure core of clearness for the first Korean situation is getting more progressively lost. And then the last third of the book from the late 1960's onward to its conclusion! This is barely a 2.5 star read. It jumps. Relationship and context become abrupt. Many tangent issues of intersect to the story become sketchy. Is this new character or that one introduced to merely become an example for a group label or thesis issue? We find none of the individual character self-realizations or deep core connection coming from text connotation or the visuals (as went so beautifully within the first third of the book). But instead any clarity, if any, is coming from conversations of the bemoaning failure or nasty hanger on. Dialog becomes harsh. Style is jagged and changes abruptly as well. Description quickly becoming 10 pages of angst or venting conversation for a character who is then "dealt out" of the context or continuation of this plotting within a mere 3 lines somewhere in the next chapter? Huh! Whatever was the style causation for this last third of the book- it was a mistake. She had too much to say? The grandchildren's stories should have been a separate book. The great-grandson's with the ultimate Phoebe dichotomy QUESTION of vast location decision for identity of placement- the crux pivot. This decision on where to live FOR that identity of the individual- quite another whole book. That last would have made a great story if she would have followed the style of nuance and purity for those first 2 couples who lived within Busan and knew who they were. That one could have potential to be superb. Not added within 3 paragraphs, or as an afterthought for a partial closure. So- how do you judge this book? Not in 40 words, that's for sure. I enjoyed the first half much more than the last. But I did read every word and read this slowly. There was an absolute intrigue for me- to answer a question "to or for" myself about how these people would "self-describe". Are they Korean? Are they Japanese. They hold passports from South Korea, even those who have never been there. And getting Japanese citizenship? Well, you decide if that is a realistic possibility. Japanese want to be "the same" at their very cores- difference can and does equate to unmannerly and "wrong". As much as I did enjoy the factual minutia of these times and places, and the mix of modes and fads displayed by those who lived them. I also became quite aware that this essentially, in the last 50 or 60 pages of the book- holds a very anti-Japanese animus. Which became more and more openly revealed. I would say it is a prejudice, just as equal to the one the Japanese held for Noa. So I can only give it 3 stars. It's a tremendous effort. Places and characters here are often superbly detailed. Min Jin Lee just bit off far more than she could chew, IMHO. Trying to get every victim or condition "label" issued for a human being since the middle of the last century into some action or subplot was also not a wise move.

  8. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    ‘living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.’ wow. i am speechless. this story is a bittersweet portrait of family, the sacrifices that must be made for those we love, and the resilience to see through the outcomes of our choices. i am so moved by this story. across four generations, two opposing nations, war and constant struggle, a family lived. a family lost. a family learned. and a family loved. min jin lee has so beautifully, and so ‘living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.’ wow. i am speechless. this story is a bittersweet portrait of family, the sacrifices that must be made for those we love, and the resilience to see through the outcomes of our choices. i am so moved by this story. across four generations, two opposing nations, war and constant struggle, a family lived. a family lost. a family learned. and a family loved. min jin lee has so beautifully, and somewhat painfully, crafted a novel that has taught me so much. through their intertwining personal and political circumstances, i have come to care for this family. i know that many readers could not get attached to the writing style of this book, but all i could see was the intention. there is so much purpose behind every word, every sentence. i thought the straightforward nature of the writing was needed. there is no sugarcoating the trials koreans faced in japan, and so i appreciate lee for her candid writing. there is so much that can unpacked and dissected about this story, but i just cant get over how heartbroken i am. this is a definite must read! ↠ 4.5 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Despite this being a 480 pg mini brick of a book, I absolutely flew through Pachinko on two commutes and a night. It's a sweeping, multi-generational epic of a Korean family, and we follow their collective and individual rises and falls, triumphs and failures, in 19010 - 1930 in Korea under Japanese occupation, and in Japan from 1930 - 1989 as expatriates and Zainichi Koreans. The characters are memorable, well-drawn, and their circumstances and hurdles extremely compelling, from family shame of Despite this being a 480 pg mini brick of a book, I absolutely flew through Pachinko on two commutes and a night. It's a sweeping, multi-generational epic of a Korean family, and we follow their collective and individual rises and falls, triumphs and failures, in 19010 - 1930 in Korea under Japanese occupation, and in Japan from 1930 - 1989 as expatriates and Zainichi Koreans. The characters are memorable, well-drawn, and their circumstances and hurdles extremely compelling, from family shame of out of wedlock pregnancy to hunger and pride and war-time privations. Min Jin Lee does a phenomenal job of weaving the stories of the individuals of the Baek/Bando family within the larger Korean immigrant experience in Japan and commenting on their social and political exclusion and discrimination, all the while tying it together with beautiful, descriptive prose that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages faster and faster. I was eager to learn more and follow these family members further, but I also wanted to the story to go on as long as possible. It's ambitious, and Lee pulls it off masterly in my opinion. Four stars from me: not an instant classic I'll put on my immediate re-read list, but I wouldn't be surprised if I do pick it up again in the years to come. There are so many great ideas floating throughout - what makes a nation? where is home? who is your family and what lines of loyalty do you follow? to pass, or to be defiantly (or shamefully) what one is? shame versus forgiveness - but Lee never hits these ideas over the head explicitly: they come to life in the thoughts, actions, and dialogue of the characters, softly and subtly at times but ultimately unmistakable. There's a lot to unpack on an intellectual level, and though I knew some things about the Japanese occupation and horrifying sexual slavery of Korean (and other occupied Asian) women as wartime "comfort women" and other pieces of the complex, complicated Japan-Korea historical relationship that only in recent years is beginning to fully normalize, I was consistently learning new ideas and words and concepts I'd never heard of prior, but these were introduced well and explained within the context of the story, so I hoovered up the information easily and eagerly. It's the family that provides the emotional push to read. I found Lee's style to change slightly as the setting and time period change, from beautiful but simple, quiet prose during the 1910 - 1930 portion on the little, provincial island of Yeong-do in Korea, to maintaining its beauty but upping the punch and zip as the family changes location to Japan and enters the modern era, with the eerie, looming mood of pre and during WWII giving way to a slightly more upbeat and fresh tone with the family's bettered circumstances in 1950 - 1989, but tempered by their Korean background and outsider, unwanted status in Japan. The simple kindness of Hoonie whom kicks off the family but we never get to know well, and his strong, smart wife Yangjin; the quiet grace and devotion of Kyunghee and her husband Yoseb's evolution from man of strength and shame to fraility and greater shame; the endurance and resolution of Sunja, the engimatic, sometimes villianous but also pitiable Koh Hansu, the Christian paragon and family renewer Isak; the goodhearted, bold Mozasu as a foil to his studious, solemn half-brother Noa and their comparative experiences of passing in Japan and how they experience and internalize shame (for different familial reasons in addition to their shared Korean heritage)... the Baek/Bandos are a layered, loving bunch with some difficult relationships between them but all sharing a passion to succeed, to carve out a home and a family, to be an example (most of the time) of good, hardworking Koreans in Japan, to transcend their marginalization and be seen, be worthy. I would heartily recommend this to lovers of family and historical epics of varying lengths, lovers of beautiful but easy reading prose and where lots of plot and events are occurring but the writing is calm so you don't feel overwhelmed by the action, and those with an interest in Japanese and Korean-set historical fiction and really getting a painless education into a complex political and cultural connection.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    In the sweeping and monolithic Pachinko, Min Jin Lee documents four generations of a Korean family in Japan from 1910 to 1989. First conceived in 1989, Lee worked on this novel for over 25 years and what a masterpiece she has to show for all her work. Only really comparable in scope to Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle, Pachinko is an education as well as a flawlessly crafted story. It theorises on an ugly aspect of Japanese society and the people who struggle against this open prejudice. What I know In the sweeping and monolithic Pachinko, Min Jin Lee documents four generations of a Korean family in Japan from 1910 to 1989. First conceived in 1989, Lee worked on this novel for over 25 years and what a masterpiece she has to show for all her work. Only really comparable in scope to Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle, Pachinko is an education as well as a flawlessly crafted story. It theorises on an ugly aspect of Japanese society and the people who struggle against this open prejudice. What I know about the history of Koreans in Japan wouldn't fill the back of a postage stamp. To call my knowledge of the culture and politics of east Asia in the 2oth century a blindspot would be offensive to actual blindspots. (Honestly, all my knowledge of Japan comes from Sondheim's Pacific Overtures) What I'm saying is that I probably know minus-information about this area of the world and its history. So Pachinko was a real history lesson for me. But, as the Financial Times' review put it, 'we never feel history being spoon-fed to us.' Lee imbues the history into her characters. Through them we witness WWII and the division of Korea, the stories and journeys of the millions of post-war Korean migrants in Japan (a people known to the Japanese as the Zainichi), and the frank bigotry that many of them (and their subsequent generations) faced in Japanese society. One of the novel's best characters, the Dickens-loving Noa, is described as having to 'pass' for Japanese and even hides his true Korean identify from his wife and children. I had no idea about any of this stuff and it was truly eyeopening. But the novel is not just a history lesson: it's a veritable soap opera. I described it to one of my friends as 'Maeve Binchy goes to Asia'. There are twists and turns in Pachinko that would have caused Jackie Collins to down the driest martini. Love, marriage, betrayal, kimchi, death. I mean, the yakuza play a very significant role in this novel. It's a blockbuster of a book. Your mother who only reads Danielle Steel deep-cuts would get as much enjoyment out of this as a thesis student in Asian Studies. I devoured Pachinko. It is a somewhat dense 531-pages but I had to constantly pull myself away from it. If left to my own devices the whole book would have been conquered in just one prolonged sitting. Sunja's story captivated me, Noa's story intrigued me, Mozasu's story broke me, Hansu's story enraged me, Solomon's story gave me hope, and Yangjin, the woman who starts it all, she enthralled me from page one. It is difficult to think of any novel published in the last couple of years that is even comparable to Pachinko. One year since its publication and it has already been deemed a modern classic. Min Jin Lee has created a literary juggernaut. And I loved it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    "… there could only be a few winners and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones. How could you get angry at the ones who wanted to be in the game?... Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not." I hadn’t really understood exactly what pachinko was before reading this novel. This book and Wikipedia have educated me on the topic. The way I envision pachinko is as a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine. It’s a gambling game, where "… there could only be a few winners and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones. How could you get angry at the ones who wanted to be in the game?... Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not." I hadn’t really understood exactly what pachinko was before reading this novel. This book and Wikipedia have educated me on the topic. The way I envision pachinko is as a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine. It’s a gambling game, where the odds may be fixed and the results controlled by outside hands rather than by those actually operating the handle. But folks will return again and again and spend hours in front of this parlor game with the hope of winning the big one. Pachinko can also be likened to the lives of the numerous characters that populate this generational family saga and historical fiction novel. They make choices, they pull the lever if you will, sometimes controlling what happens to them, but very often affected by the outside influences of others, especially those with more power. Some of the characters in this book work for or run pachinko parlors, but the reader spends very little time in these gaming facilities –I would have been running in the other direction otherwise! What this book does provide us with is a rich story about a family that finds its roots in Korea during the early 1900s and straight through to late 1980s Japan. I love learning about countries and cultures of which I know nothing or very little. This book did not disappoint in that aspect. Much of this is heartbreaking, frustrating, and even maddening – due to the multiple injustices suffered by this Korean family both in their home country under colonial rule by Japan, as well as in Japan where they emigrated in search of more opportunities, safety and security. What they often found there was hatred and racial prejudices. They faced identity crises that some were able to rise above and others were not fortunate enough to overcome. I didn’t realize that the Korean people that moved to Japan during those years suffered to such an outrageous and unbearable extent. They were often discriminated against in the workplace, receiving lower wages than their Japanese counterparts. They were called names, considered lazy, even referred to frequently as criminals. Their living conditions were run-down. Children were bullied in their schools. The only alternative to these conditions seemed to be to return to Korea – but this means of escape was even worse following World War II with the widespread starvation and the introduction of communism in the north. So, the family remained in Japan and made a life, despite the oppression and limitations they faced. This book was rather hefty, but I never tired of it. I did learn so much about the culture, the politics (though not heavy-handed), and a bit of the history of both Korea and Japan. There were many characters as the novel covers a lengthy span of time, but I never grew confused. I did feel a bit of a distancing from the characters themselves, and they were not quite multilayered enough. I savor wonderfully complex characters. One character, a young man named Noa, may have fit the bill here, but a couple more multidimensional individuals may have enriched this aspect of the book a bit more for me personally. However, I did feel much sympathy towards many of the family; their struggles were real and quite believable. I most admired the women who fought so hard for their families, their children, and worked tirelessly to survive and make ends meet. They were resourceful and brave despite their very quiet and unobtrusive bearing. The last two-thirds to one-fourth of the novel felt a bit more rushed and I was slightly less invested in the storylines of these characters than I was in those initial players. However, I found this to be very well-written, educational and engaging so I can’t really give Pachinko less than 4 stars. Recommended if you are a fan of epic family stories, immigrant struggles, and/or historical fiction. I would be more than happy to read more of Min Jin Lee in the future. "Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Langford

    “Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.” Wow! What a sweeping, beautiful and heartbreaking novel this was. An emotional read about exile, discrimination, identity and generational/cultural expectations. This book follows a four-generational family, originally from Korea, living in Japan. It shows how our decisions can have an effect on many things in our future lives. This book first takes place in Korea, 1911. It starts with a couple “Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.” Wow! What a sweeping, beautiful and heartbreaking novel this was. An emotional read about exile, discrimination, identity and generational/cultural expectations. This book follows a four-generational family, originally from Korea, living in Japan. It shows how our decisions can have an effect on many things in our future lives. This book first takes place in Korea, 1911. It starts with a couple who have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja is enamored by a local yakuza: Hanku, she soon falls pregnant and unbeknownst to her, after the discovery of pregnancy, she learns that Hanku is already married and with his own children. Due to the highly placed value of female virginity in Korea, the family faces ruin from Sunja's pregnancy. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation for the family: a new life in Japan as his wife. To bring salvation to herself and to her family, Sunja follows the minister to Japan to live in a hostile country. Here she faces severe discrimination from the Japanese for being Korean. She moves to a country where she has no friends or home. The book then details her life and those of her family's over the generations. This book details the tensions of being Korean in Japan and how this is maintained over generations. It shows a part of history that is not always mentioned and not that well known. While the character's struggle with their identity in a hostile country, it shows determination to persevere and endure.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I had this in my TBR queue for ages. It took making it a book club selection to bring it to the front of the line. It’s described as an epic tale of generations of Koreans in Japan and epic truly describes it. I felt like I was reading one of James Michener’s sagas. I loved Sunja. She is just so strong. She’s not only part of the underclass, but a woman to boot. She struggles but always finds a way to persevere. There is nothing better than a well done historical fiction. This one fits the bill. I had this in my TBR queue for ages. It took making it a book club selection to bring it to the front of the line. It’s described as an epic tale of generations of Koreans in Japan and epic truly describes it. I felt like I was reading one of James Michener’s sagas. I loved Sunja. She is just so strong. She’s not only part of the underclass, but a woman to boot. She struggles but always finds a way to persevere. There is nothing better than a well done historical fiction. This one fits the bill. I knew next to nothing about the Japanese annexation of Korea and the issues that followed. And I knew nothing about the Koreans that actually lived in Japan. I remember from WWII that Koreans were considered inferior by the Japanese. There are multiple points in this book when the way the Japanese treated the Koreans reminded me of how blacks were treated here in the US. The same prejudices. And the same belief by the underclass that they needed to be so much better to make it. This is a long book but it’s a fast read. I got so engrossed with the story that the pages flew by. I found the first half of the book much more interesting than the second. As the number of characters increased, we learn less about each and I felt like there wasn’t the depth to anyone of them. It made it much harder to relate to anyone. I almost felt the book would have been stronger if it had ended sooner.

  14. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    Rating 3.75 I had gone back and forth on reading this one. I would get it from the library and return it. But it was a National Book Award finalist, so it should be good. My library got the audio and I had to wait months to get it, so it should be good. It's historical fiction and I love that, so it should be good. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I had many issues with it. Pachinko tells the story of several generations of one Korean family. You first start out, learning about this family and Rating 3.75 I had gone back and forth on reading this one. I would get it from the library and return it. But it was a National Book Award finalist, so it should be good. My library got the audio and I had to wait months to get it, so it should be good. It's historical fiction and I love that, so it should be good. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I had many issues with it. Pachinko tells the story of several generations of one Korean family. You first start out, learning about this family and how they live in Korea. But then, due to war, they are moved to Japan. Eventually we learn of Sunja, a young peasant girl, the daughter of a poor family who runs a boarding house for fishermen. She becomes pregnant at a very early age, which is scandalous. But one of the boarders who knew of her father, marries her and takes her to Japan. You learn about her history and her children and children's children. This is one family sweeping saga that spans 70-80 years. You learn the strife of Koreans living in Japan, the racism that they faced, assimilating into Japanese culture, the customs and ways of the Japanese. That part I loved hearing about. I loved hearing about Korea and the food, it took me back to a trip that I had to Korea. Then, we switched to Japan, which I just adore. You learn of the Pachinko parlors as one family member runs. Oh the pachinko parlors, they were absolutely insane. Think Vegas amplified, with lots of wild colors, and high vibe atmosphere. I really enjoyed being able to think back to my time there. But the book was too long, it often jumped around. I really enjoyed learning about Sunja, her parents, and her children. But when her children, got older, it seemed to be all over the place. It cover many topics such as racism, war, strife, suicide, gay men, loose women, the Yakuza, AIDS, and more. I think this book could have been trimmed down quite a bit. I was really loving it, thinking it might be a 5 star read, but then it seems to throw in so many topics, and some were glossed over, or I did not get the resolution I desired. The final 1/4 of the book was totally not needed and really drug the book down for me. I might have gone lower on my rating but I loved more than 2/3 of the book, I couldn't let that ending drag it down. Overall, glad I read this one. I ultimately picked it up for my Japanese reading challenge. Though focused on Koreans, much of the book takes place in Japan. So this was a perfect fit for the challenge.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Yoon

    Told in chronological order, this book spans 4 generations and nearly a century of time and focuses on Zainichi or ethnic Koreans living in Japan. These Zainichi are essentially stateless citizens registered to Joseon or a unified Korea that hasn’t existed since the Korean War. Up until recently they had to apply for alien registration cards that required fingerprinting every three years and were rarely granted passports making overseas travel impossible. In Japan, ethnic Koreans are seen as sec Told in chronological order, this book spans 4 generations and nearly a century of time and focuses on Zainichi or ethnic Koreans living in Japan. These Zainichi are essentially stateless citizens registered to Joseon or a unified Korea that hasn’t existed since the Korean War. Up until recently they had to apply for alien registration cards that required fingerprinting every three years and were rarely granted passports making overseas travel impossible. In Japan, ethnic Koreans are seen as second class citizens and even now are still shut out of higher positions. We follow a Korean family struggling to survive in that environment. The language is plain and unadorned but wields tremendous emotional heft. There are parts that just destroyed me but it never descends into misery porn. And while it moves at a languid pace through time I could have happily stuck around for another 300 pages. This is a beautiful story of family and notions of home that feel even more relevant in today’s political environment. It touches on aspects of passing, of not only surviving but succeeding in an adopted country that can be hostile to your very identity. Quite simply, I loved these characters and the book just blew me away.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    A rich and vivid story spanning nearly 100 years from Korea at the start of the 20th century to pre-war Osaka and finally Tokyo and Yokohama. Pachinko is a long novel that is beautifully crafted, elegant, passionate with characters that you find yourself rooting for and caring about while reading and will remember long after the novel has ended. " A club footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen year old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sonja. When Sonja falls pregnant by A rich and vivid story spanning nearly 100 years from Korea at the start of the 20th century to pre-war Osaka and finally Tokyo and Yokohama. Pachinko is a long novel that is beautifully crafted, elegant, passionate with characters that you find yourself rooting for and caring about while reading and will remember long after the novel has ended. " A club footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen year old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sonja. When Sonja falls pregnant by a married yakuza the family face ruin. But a christian minister offers a chance of salvation, a new life in Japan as his wife."and Sunja's salvation is just the beginning of this sweeping saga. There are many wonderfully imagined characters in this novel but the characters of Sonja and Kyunghee really brought this book to life and for me captures what it is to be a daughter, a mother, and a wife in any coulture. There was so many times these two woman near broke my heart in this story and I loved how strong and memorable they both these women were. This is a story of what it means to be an outsider in a foreign country and the struggles that go with trying to fit in and yet trying to maintain and hold on to a little of the past and couture they were born into. A real page turner, a story with a heart and soul, full of likable and dislikable characters that will have you hooked from page one and you will have difficulty parting with on finishing the novel I came across this book while book browsing in a book store and overheard a lady ask the store assistant to recommend a multigenerational type book that would keep her attention over the christmas period and the assistment recomemmended Pachinko and after she gave a brief synopsis of the story I decided I had to have it too and this is why books stores and their staff are worth their weight in gold and we readers should tap into their book knowledge every time we visit a bookstore. I recommend this to readers who enjoy multi generational novels, historical fiction or character driven novels. I think this would also make an excellent book club read as there is so much here to discuss.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    This book blew me away. It was powerful, heart breaking, educational and inspiring.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    We are deemed to be the directors of our lives and its consequences. Truth be told, we then become the receptors marked by the shadows of others upon us.....given and taken away. Min Jin Lee begins her story in 1910 in Yeongdo, Busan, Korea with Hoonie, plagued by physical impairments, and his wife who live in a small fishing village. These are the first stones in this multigenerational family mosaic. After many miscarriages and infant deaths, they are overjoyed at the birth of a healthy daughter We are deemed to be the directors of our lives and its consequences. Truth be told, we then become the receptors marked by the shadows of others upon us.....given and taken away. Min Jin Lee begins her story in 1910 in Yeongdo, Busan, Korea with Hoonie, plagued by physical impairments, and his wife who live in a small fishing village. These are the first stones in this multigenerational family mosaic. After many miscarriages and infant deaths, they are overjoyed at the birth of a healthy daughter, Sunja. Sunja thrives with her parents' love and the tradition of hard work within their small boardinghouse. She becomes acquainted with an attractive man, Hansu, from the village and meets him in a secluded area. He is smitten with Sunja. It is now that Sunja's stone in the mosaic will take a curved turn. She becomes pregnant and the married Hansu cannot take this relationship further. A benevolent minister, suffering from tuberculosis, offers to marry Sunja, but in doing so, the couple must move to Japan for his ministry. This stone is cast farther into the unknown. Sunja and Yangjin will live with his brother and sister-in-law in a tiny house in the part of the village designated for Koreans. And here the mosaic takes on a darker hue. The Japanese treat the Koreans as "unclean" and they are ridiculed throughout this time period as the Japanese eventually inhabit Korea itself. As war threatens, food and a sense of livelihood becomes scarce. Yangjin and his fellow ministers are arrested and taken to prison by the Japanese for not bowing to the image of the emperor. His brother must take care of the family now. The mosaics flow tragically in a downward spiral. Throughout Pachinko we will experience individuals desperately making decisions that will affect this family profoundly. Jealousies, passions, dark secrets, and hatred will visit upon them. The internal cog of this wheel results in painful instability in this family while the outer rim is bent by conditions outside their realm. History and its aftermath can be a cruel master. What struck me the most is the single thread of loss of identity as two countries inhabit what was once separate domains. It becomes the oppressed and the oppressor. The Japanese culture overshadows all that is Korean in language, religion, and certainly in social status. Later, Korea finds itself in a dust storm eventually by the Russians and even the Americans as events unfold. Pachinko, a lengthy undertaking, is filled with an undying spirit in which we all can relate to no matter where the beginning of your mosaic takes place........the supreme sacrifices and love of those who came before us as you stand blessed in the light of that reality.

  19. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    If I could, I'd give this audiobook 10 stars for writing & audio narration. The author is masterful at teaching us history, examing motives with a generous heart, and letting us think for ourselves. The audio narrator is amazing too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    I don’t know about you, but I *adore* reading books with titles that I don’t quite understand. I remember when I was reading It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover, the title didn’t exactly make sense to me, UNTIL I finally read the part where it is contextualized and it made me feel so good. I had a similar reaction when I understood this author’s title choice – Pachinko – but with less crying involved. I went like, ‘‘Ohhh, I see!’’ and looked at the story with eyes even more open than before it see I don’t know about you, but I *adore* reading books with titles that I don’t quite understand. I remember when I was reading It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover, the title didn’t exactly make sense to me, UNTIL I finally read the part where it is contextualized and it made me feel so good. I had a similar reaction when I understood this author’s title choice – Pachinko – but with less crying involved. I went like, ‘‘Ohhh, I see!’’ and looked at the story with eyes even more open than before it seemed. This is not a book that will make you happy. It has its happy moments, happy scenes, but those scenes usually involve heartbreak as well. You think it’s going to go well, and the characters will react nicely to a situation, and then suddenly the world turns upside down. The contrary also happens. You expect the worst to happen – and it almost does – but then someone saves the day, like the time when Sunja was in danger and a hero appeared. A bit cliché I admit – off with the portrayal of damsels in distress! – but it’s part of what makes this book this book if you know what I mean. It’s a slow, long tale to be devoured in parts. Is there really someone who managed to finish this one in one sitting or one day even? I couldn’t. That’s not a requirement, though, for me to enjoy a story. It’s a book that asks to be analyzed, or at least pondered at times. It’s not a story that should simply be read and then closed and put away. There is so much to learn from it that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came with the idea of actually studying this book in an academic setting. Because I knew absolutely nothing about the tensions between Koreans and the Japanese, to me this was not only a family tale, but also a long overdue history lesson. I can’t give it five stars because I did have to push through at times – it certainly could have been less descriptive – and not all characters were three-dimensional, but it is indeed EPIC as promised and completely different from anything I have read before. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 3.5 Stars rounded up Pachinko is a sweeping family saga listed as being for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. Following one Korean family through the years from Yeongdo, Busan, Korea where a poor fisherman and his wife give birth to a young infant boy. Hoonie, their only child of four to survive, was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot, in addition to a pleasant temperament and broad shoulders. The year Hoonie turns 27, 1910, Japan annexed Korea. His par !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 3.5 Stars rounded up Pachinko is a sweeping family saga listed as being for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. Following one Korean family through the years from Yeongdo, Busan, Korea where a poor fisherman and his wife give birth to a young infant boy. Hoonie, their only child of four to survive, was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot, in addition to a pleasant temperament and broad shoulders. The year Hoonie turns 27, 1910, Japan annexed Korea. His parents who have been paying more for their meager existence annually they move themselves to the room near the kitchen in order to facilitate more boarders. The following year, weeks after his 28th birthday, the town matchmaker appears at their door. “The bride and groom met on their wedding day, and Yangjin had not been scared by his face. Pregnancies followed, but it is through their fourth child, Sunja, that the story continues. As a child, she was doted on by her parents, checked on throughout the nights, they couldn’t believe how lucky they were. Her father made her corn husk dolls, giving up things to buy her treats. He could never refuse her anything, even though she never asked, her father lived to see her face light up with her smile. She was perfection. And then, Sunja’s father dies when she is thirteen years old, from tuberculosis. "At his burial Yangjin and her daughter were inconsolable. The next morning, the young widow rose from her pallet and returned to work." When the summer was just beginning to warm the earth with its rays Sunja is at the market when she meets the new fish broker, Koh Hansu. He is there every time she goes, he speaks to her, but she always rushes away. One week, on her way home, he rescues her from an attack by some school boys. She sees now that he is kind, notices how well-groomed he is. A friendly courtship of sorts follows. Before winter of 1932, the Depression was felt in Korea, China, Japan. America. Russia. Everywhere. Sunja and Yangjin need to fill their home with as many boarders as they can. They recently added a new boarder, a Korean Protestant Minister from Japan. He is quiet and kind in a soothing way. He feels that he is being called to marry young Sunja, and bring her back with him to Japan. In Japan, Sunja and Pastor Isak Baek live with his brother, Yoseb, and Yoseb’s wife Kyunghee in a small home in Osaka. Sunja and Kyunghee quickly become very close, like sisters. The strength of this relationship is the glue that holds this family, and this story, together. Through the years of living in Japan in an era decidedly anti-Korean, their bond is unbreakable. Hope. Courage. Survival. Choices. Despair. Family. War. Love. These themes, and more. Bigotry in both race and religion. The financially privileged taking advantage of the needy and underprivileged. I enjoyed the first half of Pachinko more than I did the second half, the second half seemed as though a great deal more was crammed in and (as is often the case is family sagas) the characters came and went too often to feel invested in them. That's not to say the second half wasn't good, perhaps slightly less lovely than the first half. Language: For those who prefer their books without profanity, this contains small sections with more than average, but the vast majority of the story has very little. Primarily when the “youngest generation” joins the cast of characters. Pub Date: 07 Feb 2017 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Grand Central Publishing / NetGalley and author Min Jin Lee.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    I borrowed this novel mainly due to the fact that I had very general knowledge of the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula, however, I knew nothing of the Korean immigrants living in Japan. The novel is what we call a saga, with the time span of around eighty years and set both in Korea and Japan, and is interesting with regard to the history, customs and traditions, both Japanese and Korean, however, there is little depth regarding the character development. Having said that, I admit tha I borrowed this novel mainly due to the fact that I had very general knowledge of the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula, however, I knew nothing of the Korean immigrants living in Japan. The novel is what we call a saga, with the time span of around eighty years and set both in Korea and Japan, and is interesting with regard to the history, customs and traditions, both Japanese and Korean, however, there is little depth regarding the character development. Having said that, I admit that the stories of their lives are interesting. If Min Jin Lee writes another novel, I might give it a try. I definitely recommend the audiobook as the narrator does a splendid job.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    Pachinko is just the kind of book I love. It starts in Korea in the early 1900s with Hoonie, a young man with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Despite his deformities he marries and his wife gives birth to a daughter, Sunja. When Sunja is a young teenager she makes some bad choices and ends up pregnant. The man who is to be the father is already married, and Sunja is ashamed of her mistake; but proud and determined she refuses to be his mistress. A single, kind pastor, sickly as a child and un Pachinko is just the kind of book I love. It starts in Korea in the early 1900s with Hoonie, a young man with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Despite his deformities he marries and his wife gives birth to a daughter, Sunja. When Sunja is a young teenager she makes some bad choices and ends up pregnant. The man who is to be the father is already married, and Sunja is ashamed of her mistake; but proud and determined she refuses to be his mistress. A single, kind pastor, sickly as a child and unable to find a wife, offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a life together. Author Min Jin Lee takes us through the World Wars, the painful suffering and poverty of the Koreans in Japan, and the small victories of these family members. We become immersed in complex relationships, quests for education, financial success, faith and identity, nationality controversies, the shady Pachinko business, and organized crime. The strength of women is exemplified in many of the characters as well as the challenges both men and women faced due to the culture, tradition and society. The story concludes in 1989 in Tokyo following the life of Solomon, Sunja’s grandson, Hoonie’s great grandson. The incredible generational saga is told with great description and background information about Korean-Japanese relationships, culture and class. For me it was not an emotional rollercoaster tear jerker, but a transportation in time where I was absorbed in Korean and Japanese culture; I was captivated, shocked at times and engrossed for all 485 pages. I was unaware of the discrimination and prejudice Koreans felt in Japan and how the laws disallowed Koreans born in Japan to be considered Japanese citizens and therefore considered foreigners. It’s a huge bonus when a book gives me a reason to do additional research…this well written novel was a pleasure to read; from the multi facetted, complex and expressive characters to the rich and unsettling history of Koreans and Japanese, I couldn’t put it down and I learned a lot too! Follow me on Book Nation by Jen https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com

  24. 5 out of 5

    April (Aprilius Maximus)

    This book ripped out my soul 🙃

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    This epic story following a family of Koreans from 1910 to 1989 is a surprisingly easy read for such a long book. The language is deceptively simple apart from the borrowed Korean and Japanese words for which a glossary might have been helpful, as in most cases they are not explained. The story starts on the small island of Yeongdo near the Korean port city of Busan in 1910, the year Japan annexed Korea. This is where its central character Sunja is born to a couple who run a small boarding house This epic story following a family of Koreans from 1910 to 1989 is a surprisingly easy read for such a long book. The language is deceptively simple apart from the borrowed Korean and Japanese words for which a glossary might have been helpful, as in most cases they are not explained. The story starts on the small island of Yeongdo near the Korean port city of Busan in 1910, the year Japan annexed Korea. This is where its central character Sunja is born to a couple who run a small boarding house. She becomes pregnant at 15 with the child of a rich man who turns out to be a married gangster, and is spared when a travelling minister takes pity on her and marries her, taking her to Japan where he has a job in Osaka. This is just the start of a complicated story that embodies the collective experiences of Japan's downtrodden Korean population. I liked some of this book a lot - much of the social history was new to me and some of the characters were well drawn though others seemed more like ciphers and I got a bit bored with some of the modern part of the story. For the uninitiated, pachinko is a form of vertical pinball which became popular in Japan because it was one of the few legal forms of gambling and pachinko parlours are predominantly owned by Koreans. The metaphor of pachinko as a model for life, with plenty of ups and downs and very few winners, is spelled out a little too clearly. Overall I found this book enjoyable so I don't want to be too harsh on it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I kicked off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. This was the last book of the project. Here are the selections; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list. Pachinko is like gambling on pinball machines, so I don't know how that hasn't destroyed civilization yet, good lord. Here's a cheesy browser game if you wanna get the general idea. You shoot the ball, it bangs around, things light up, you win or you don't. So this makes an effective metaphor, if a pretty thudding and obvious one: "Life's going I kicked off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. This was the last book of the project. Here are the selections; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list. Pachinko is like gambling on pinball machines, so I don't know how that hasn't destroyed civilization yet, good lord. Here's a cheesy browser game if you wanna get the general idea. You shoot the ball, it bangs around, things light up, you win or you don't. So this makes an effective metaphor, if a pretty thudding and obvious one: "Life's going to keep pushing you around, but you have to keep playing," someone tells you toward the end, just in case you missed it. And that's pretty much the thing with this whole book: it's effective but a little dumb. "Multigenerational family epic about people from a different culture" might not totally fire your jetpack but it does mine, I hear that phrase and I'm like sign me the fuck up, I get all excited. I don't know, why are you reading books? I'm trying to broaden my mind up in here. This one is about Koreans in Japan; did you know they were super discriminated against? I didn't! I'd never thought about it at all! What happened is Japan invaded Korea in 1910, and then they totally ruined the whole country, and some Koreans moved to Japan because at least there was food there, but they lived in shitty ghettos and Japanese people were dicks about it. Still sortof are. Then after World War II the Allies split Korea in half: the Soviet Union got to do communism in the North and the United States got to do capitalism in the South, which I am literally a socialist and even I have to admit that the optics on that experiment are not great for my team. This part isn't really covered in the book though, I had to look it up myself. The book goes from 1910 to 1989 but it only alludes to the two-country thing. Anyway some of the Koreans were Christians, too, I guess? And this is basically a Christian novel, which, like, it's fine, Min Jin Lee's not an asshole about it, but you know how that Christian stuff goes. They're always doing wack stuff like taking inspiration from Bible quotes or, like, finding grace. Barf. And it's a little sloppily written. There are a few actual typos, someone just left a stray word kicking around - but worse, a lot of it is just clunky as hell. Here's a sentence: "'Bando-San,' a woman shouted. It was the radical beauty on campus, Akiko Fumeki." See what I mean? Punched in the face by exposition! That's some fan fiction-level shit there. And it skips a little weirdly, too - a chapter will start like "Following [someone's] death, life was different" or something, and you're like oh, I guess they're dead now? Glad you didn't get all maudlin about it but maybe you overcorrected? The book is fine. I love that I learned new things. It kept me turning the pages; I was invested in the characters. It's a little dumb and obvious. If multigenerational family epics set in other cultures are your thing, read it; if they're not, don't.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    I really enjoyed this saga of a Korean family from the 1930's to 1989. The story centers around Sunja, who is a teenager in Korea in the early 30's. Her father has died and she and her mother run a boarding house, earning money by taking in lodgers. Sunja is seduced by a mysterious businessman who lives in Japan and becomes pregnant by him. The businessman cannot marry Sunja and she makes a marriage of convenience to a Korean Christian minister who takes her to Japan, where she lives the remaind I really enjoyed this saga of a Korean family from the 1930's to 1989. The story centers around Sunja, who is a teenager in Korea in the early 30's. Her father has died and she and her mother run a boarding house, earning money by taking in lodgers. Sunja is seduced by a mysterious businessman who lives in Japan and becomes pregnant by him. The businessman cannot marry Sunja and she makes a marriage of convenience to a Korean Christian minister who takes her to Japan, where she lives the remainder of her life and raises her family. It's an interesting tale full of memorable characters and storylines. As with all historical fiction, I learned something I didn't know - in this case, I learned about Japanese contempt for and distrust of Koreans. Much of this book dealt with overt and systemic racism in Japan. I also learned what Pachinko is - I had never heard of this game, which sounds a bit like gambling on pinball. I have been absolutely obsessed with the cover of this book since it came out just because of its beauty, but I had no idea what it represented. Well, it's a Pachinko game board. Duh. Pachinko plays a significant role in this family's story. This is a lengthy book (485 pages) but it sure kept my interest and flowed well. I had less interest in the stories of the later family generations, but that was mostly because the early part of the book was so spellbinding. I highly recommend this one to historical fictions fans, especially those interested in Asian culture. It's a gem. A 4.5 for me. Thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an ARC of this novel. My review, however, is based on the hardcover edition.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wen

    This one was just okay to me. I got some historical context around ethical discrimination in Japan against people originally from Korea, and women’s subservient status in Japanese/Korean society in the first half of the 20th century. Neither the plot nor the writing stood out. Most characters felt over-simplified, with only two primary dimensions: selfish or altruistic, conventional or rebellious. The fact that the two brothers with dramatically different personalityes, and without contact for m This one was just okay to me. I got some historical context around ethical discrimination in Japan against people originally from Korea, and women’s subservient status in Japanese/Korean society in the first half of the 20th century. Neither the plot nor the writing stood out. Most characters felt over-simplified, with only two primary dimensions: selfish or altruistic, conventional or rebellious. The fact that the two brothers with dramatically different personalityes, and without contact for more than a decade, ended up making a fortune in the same pachinko business felt too stereotypical. I was surprised that as an Asian immigrant I felt so little personal connection with the book. I suspect it's because U.S and Japan are polar opposites for immigrants. I was drawn by the buzz, but went into the book and noted down my initial thoughts here without reading any reviews. Having read all GR friends' very mixed reviews, I share the thoughts on the educational value of the book in history and culture, the sheer number of characters and the lack of depth in most of them.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    This has been on my list since it first came out and it was no disappointment. This family saga begins with a poor but loving Korean family and follows them through the next three generations and to Japan. Although I was aware of the prejudice Japan had for Koreans, I really had no idea of the extent of it. It is difficult to discuss the book without giving spoilers. Although long, I would definitely call this an easy read. There are no real challenges in the writing or concepts but the story is This has been on my list since it first came out and it was no disappointment. This family saga begins with a poor but loving Korean family and follows them through the next three generations and to Japan. Although I was aware of the prejudice Japan had for Koreans, I really had no idea of the extent of it. It is difficult to discuss the book without giving spoilers. Although long, I would definitely call this an easy read. There are no real challenges in the writing or concepts but the story is compelling and the characters likable. I became very invested in the fortunes of this family. Pachinko is a game of chance, only not really. Extremely popular in Japan it is a bit like pinball. The game can be rigged by the owners so that the player may still win on some machines-but not all. A lot like life in this book. A combination of luck and skill and sometimes all the skill in the world is not enough to beat the house.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Although some of the central events of the novel, like World War II and the atomic bomb drop at Nagasaki, are familiar territory for fiction, Lee prioritizes out-of-the-ordinary perspectives: her Korean characters are first the colonized, and then the outsiders trying to thrive in a foreign country despite segregation and persecution. I recommend Pachinko to readers of family sagas and anyone who wants to learn more about the Korean experience. My only caveat is that the book goes downhill in Pa Although some of the central events of the novel, like World War II and the atomic bomb drop at Nagasaki, are familiar territory for fiction, Lee prioritizes out-of-the-ordinary perspectives: her Korean characters are first the colonized, and then the outsiders trying to thrive in a foreign country despite segregation and persecution. I recommend Pachinko to readers of family sagas and anyone who wants to learn more about the Korean experience. My only caveat is that the book goes downhill in Part III; the action speeds up and I felt less of an emotional connection with the later generation (as with the Jane Smiley trilogy).

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