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Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.
So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja's family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Summer on 05-15-18
Awkward and simple
This novel portrays the pitfalls of an author writing a story in a setting she knows very little about, especially while covering such a vast timeframe. The book is awkward - evidences of the author’s ignorance and insufficient research is scattered throughout the book - from, for example, the excessive and inappropriate usage of “ne” in speech combined with the omission of the Osaka dialect, Noah’s choice of university (why not Doshisha, a Christian university of a similar standing as Waseda in the Kansai region, or even another closer, cheaper and better public university?), no reference to the policies of the GHQ (the occupation led by General MacArthur) and their interplay with the Korean conflict and the lives of zainichi (in Japan) Koreans after WWII, Noah’s end (guns are extremely rare in Japan), no reference to the differences on views towards zainichi Koreans between the Kansai and Kanto regions, etc. and the more mundane descriptions such as reference to dowry (there exists no Japanese custom of bride or bride’s family giving money/assets to the husband’s family) and cooking in peanut oil (no peanut oil in traditional Japanese home cooking). The list continues. It seems the author relied excessively on assumptions. This is very unfortunate particularly because the story takes up a theme that should be told.
Other than such awkwardness, I felt the book had insufficient character development or rather, simple characters, and partly as a result, the story was simplistic. It lacked the complexity it could have had given the historic background of the time, the length of the story and the timeframe it covered, as well as its theme.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
By NMwritergal on 04-05-18
And this was nominated for awards because...?
I enjoyed the first half of the book in spite of the simplistic prose and awful audio performer (who narrated as if she were reading to five-year-olds). Sunja's story and the characters who populate her life (in particular her sister-in-law and husband) were engaging.
But halfway though, the book started to completely fall apart. Huge jumps in time made the story feel fractured. Characters who have little to do with anything get their stories told in a couple of chapters and then disappear. A major character commits suicide (literally one line is devoted to it) and that's about it until near the end of the book when there's about a paragraph. The meeting, marriage, and death (of one character) happen in one chapter. Another major character is absent from the book for years, pops back in briefly, and is gone again. Sunja herself is largely absent in the second half.
Also what was odd and jarring was the constant the badly written objectification of women and all the sex. In these cases, modern terms were used to describe the women (almost always crude) and the same goes with sex. The descriptions of sexual encounters read more like bad erotica or pornography. The story starts in the early 1900s, the audio narrator sounds like she's reading to kids, and then there's all these badly written sex scenes? It was just creepy and strange. Nobody ever had sex or made love, they ONLY f***ed. There's a difference between the three, and I'm mystified as to why the author didn't manage to use the appropriate term for what the encounter was, because it wasn't just f***ing. And even if it was, was that word (which I don't object to in any way) around in the early 1900s and in common use? Was this a book in translation (that was poorly translated)? Does the author not know anything about sex? I'm pretty sure a computer algorithm would have done a better job on those parts. Where was the editor?
The book could have used more historical context as well. I was interested in what was there, but it wasn't enough for me. I would have loved to hear the history of pachinko. It's the name of the book, but pachinko doesn't even show up till hour 9 and then there's very little history or description.
The book started off as 3 stars and ended at one star, so I guess I'll give it 2. But my advice would be not to invest a credit and 16 hours of your life to this novel.
26 of 28 people found this review helpful