Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I really enjoyed Pachinko though it’s not normally something I would pick up. It is such a beautifully written story, that despite its heavy themes, Pachinko is well worth it.

History itself is a character in Pachinko. The story spans generations of one Korean family from early 1900s through to nearly present day. It begins with a poor yet proud couple who owns a boarding house in Korea. We then follow their daughter Sunja, through her pregnancy and marriage and move to Japan to begin a new life. As each character grows in the book, no one lacks in depth or relevance to the plot which is awesome. You really invest with each character as they each add so much to the richness of the story. I loved how each of their stories interweaved dealing with some really heavy problems; poverty, prejudice, acceptance in Japan, being exiled from their homeland. All while dealing with the aftermath of the war. There are some quite heavy themes – the novel is mainly about Korean exile, discrimination, and Japenese repression. However underlying the novels main focus is on family and work; work to live, work to provide, work for the future.

There was so much focus on family and what it meant to each member. Love and identity play a huge part as well as work ethic. Min Jin Lee also focused a lot on the changing role of women and their engagements with identity, family, racism and class. It is clear how well she has researched and I loved her simple and elegant way of writing. I really enjoyed the way she used Korean and Japanese words and phrases weaved throughout the novel.

Pachinko shows a side of history I didn’t know anything about which made it super interesting. I’m not sure if I would read again but I feel like the story will stay with me for a long time.


Yeongdo, Korea 1911.

In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.

If you like this review try Circe by Madeline Miller – another great historical novel!


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