Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko has been on my radar for a while. I picked up a copy a while back (I couldn’t resist the beautiful hardcover), and finally got around to reading it! Really, I saw it was the Our Shared Shelf pick for May/June and knew it would be the perfect time to finally read it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
I was honestly surprised by how quickly I got into this book. I’m so used to historical fiction taking a few chapters for me to really draw me in, but I was invested in Pachinko from page one. I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much is the writing. It’s simplistic, but beautiful, and I think it fit the story perfectly.
Since this is a story about a family spanning several generations, we get to know quite a few characters. Now, I think it’s just the nature of a book like this to end up falling for the first character you’re introduced to. So I felt most connected to Sunja and I didn’t quite enjoy the other storylines as much (though they’re all great). Pachinko reminded me a lot of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in that it follows different generations of the same family. But I thought Homegoing was a bit easier to keep track of in that the separation between generations was clearer and each character had their own story.
Personally, I enjoyed the beginning of Pachinko a bit more than the end. I think a few too many outside characters were introduced, and it felt like it dragged just a little. All in all, though, I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a great story that kept my attention for hours, and taught me a lot about Korean and Japanese culture, which I loved.
★★★★☆ – It’d say Pachinko was a 4.5-star read for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a really great read. If you like historical fiction, I would definitely recommend it!
Pachinko is available to buy wherever books are sold (I’ve even seen it at Target). You can pick up a copy on Amazon.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Pachinko as one of your two free books.
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