Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko is a life-changing historical fiction novel, written by Min Jin Lee and published in 2017 by Apollo. This best-selling novel was not only named one of the New York Times ’10 Best Books of 2017′ but has also won a host of highly coveted awards, such as the Litsy Award For Historical Fiction in 2017 and the Reading Women Award in the same year.
The audio book was narrated by Alison Hiroto and published by Hachette Audio in 2017. It has a running time of 18:14 hours.
Synopsis: Set in Yeongdo, Korea during the early 1900s, a disabled man from a small village marries a 15-year old girl and together the two doting parents have a daughter called Sunja.
When Sunja grows into adolescence, she becomes pregnant by a very wealthy man whom she later learns is a married yakuza gang member. Shortly after this, Sunja and her mother meet a docile Christian minister, who upon learning of Sunja’s situation, offers her a new life in Japan as his wife. At first it seems like a chance to start over, freeing her from the shame of disgracing her family, but Sunja soon learns how hostile life can be in the land of Korea’s colonial oppressors.
Pachinko was a monumental undertaking of a book, spanning four generations and several decades. It covers the the period from Japan’s colonnial occupation in Korea, through the two world wars and into the modern era, this book is nothing short of epic, life-changing and timeless.
I was mostly impressed with the characterisation which was handled beautifully in a way that made this novel truly exceptional. They not only appealed to my sense of empathy, but also felt very human and made me genuinely interested in their story arcs. Despite such a plentiful cast, Lee’s adept use of characterisation never faltered, even when fleshing out characters of minor importance to the plot.
From a political point of view, Pachinko has a conservative tone but also boldly handles more liberalist and edgy themes. It portrays the extent of Japanese hostilities towards Koreans, even during more recent years, in an unadulterated way that was heart-breaking. These stories of hardship and determination are emotively told through the perspective of Sunja, her husband, Isak and her children.
Pachinko is a story about family virtue, honour, deceit and the decisions we make that shape our futures. Put simply, Pachinko is a timeless jewel of a book, a future classic in the making!