The way some chapters end in this book got my heart stopping out of shock! This book gives a perspective into the life of Koreans living in Japan in the early 1900s when Japan took control over Korea and highlights the struggles that first generation immigrants face along with the complexities of experiencing dual cultural identities, which become more apparent throughout the subsequent generations. I must say I’m really loving historical fiction. I’d highly recommend this book and if you find stories about immigrants interesting then you’ll enjoy this book.

This book follows a family of Koreans from about 1900s to 1980s and you get to go through about 4 generations on the whole. I felt pretty attached to each of the family members because of the way the author (Min Jin Lee) sets the tone of the characters from the very beginning and you can really connect the family dynamic as the story progresses. Some characters will frustrate you for sure and I found some of their choices difficult to comprehend but you’ll find that this may just be a cultural aspect that a non-Korean/Japanese may not fully grasp hold of but this is why the book is good. It takes you beyond what you’re used to anticipating. The relationships are complex and there’s nothing black and white about this story. What was great about this book is that unlike most other books I’ve read, Min Jin Lee chose to tell the story from the perspective of several characters rather than an individual to reveal and populate the cultural, socio-economic, political and psychological situations around the time this book was set.

In terms of history, you get to learn the tension between Japanese and Koreans and the struggles plus discrimination the Koreans faced. It was really fascinating to read about the way the different generations approached the situation differently and although it’s a fiction I read that Min Jin Lee did a lot of research (considering she has a major in history…..) prior to writing the book, which tells you that there’s truth and real life stories about many generations of Koreans. I also loved that the book was titled Pachinko ( it’s a pinball game machine that is extremely popular in Japan but also considered dirty business). During those days, Koreans were not hired and jobs were difficult to find so many Koreans resorted to working for the pachinko business in one form or another.

“Pachinko, like life, is a game partly of skill, partly of chance. It is the overarching metaphor of the book; and the game is woven into the plot of the novel as well.”

In this book, Pachinko is a recurring symbol of fate and identity.

Happy reading if you are planning to!

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