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Najin's father, a calligrapher, clings to tradition as the Japanese occupation threatens Korean culture in the early twentieth century. He continually slights his daughter, the curious Najin, who holds back her questions and hides the hurt that comes from her father's insensitivity. If Lorna Raver's mature voice seems a curious choice for the young heroine, her throaty richness becomes more appropriate as the production proceeds. It fits the royalty of the Korean court, where Najin's mother sends her to escape an arranged marriage. Raver's resonance also makes sense as young Najin faces threats beyond her level of maturity. With devotion and strength, Najin works to maintain her family's well-being during times of war and poverty, ignoring her own desires for scholarship and love.
In early-20th-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother---but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry Najin into an aristocratic family, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her to serve in the king's court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end. In the shadow of the dying monarchy, Najin begins a journey through increasing oppression that will forever change her world. As she desperately seeks to continue her education, will the unexpected love she finds along the way be enough to sustain her through the violence and subjugation her country continues to face? Spanning 30 years, The Calligrapher's Daughter is a richly drawn novel in the tradition of Lisa See and Amy Tan about a country torn between ancient customs and modern possibilities, a family ultimately united by love, and a woman who never gives up her search for freedom.
©2009 Eugenia Kim (P)2009 Tantor
"A beautiful, deliberate and satisfying story spanning 30 years of Korean history." ( Publishers Weekly Starred Review)