Having read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee a few years back, I remembered that I enjoyed it but couldn’t remember the details as it has been awhile. I was glad to re-read this book to see if I liked it as much as the first time around.
I must admit, the second time around was better!! Not sure if it was because I listened to the book this time around. My hectic life with the kids has meant that I do a lot of audio books rather than reading the book physically. Regardless, I gave Pachinko and extra 1/2 star from last time.
Here’s what I loved about the book:
The story line of a Korean family immigrating to Japan was interesting! It’s a family saga spanning four generations. I don’t know much about the historical time period, and particularly Korean or Japanese history, so it was refreshing to learn about their cultures and history.
Lee’s style, which is simple and direct, is fantastic. There’s not much description, although some parts are more filled in than others. This made the book go faster despite it being almost 500 pages, and gets you invested in the book earlier.
From the first page, you are transported into the of lives of the main character’s family. The poverty and hardship and what they had to endure to survive was very realistic and set the tone for the book.
I liked that Lee’s portrayal of the family was not depressing. The characters faced adversity but ploughed on regardless. Dare I say it’s like a Korean soap opera?
The story is told in chronological order and starts off in 1910, with the annexation of Korea by the Japanese. I liked it done this way because you follow a straight time line which makes it easy to follow, and therefore lets you focus on the development of the characters and story.
I did enjoy the pace of the book at the beginning, however it didn’t last. The book started off well, pulling me in immediately but the pace was not evenly maintained and eventually it waned.
One negative element in the book was the amount of characters involved. In the second half of the book I felt overwhelmed with who was who.
Lee created a great cast of interesting and diverse characters. I would have enjoyed a smaller cast with more character development.
My favorite character was Sunja, a single child of simple fisherman Hoonie and Yangjin. Her character was the most developed.
Sunja’s growth from being a naïve teenager who gets pregnant, to her moving to Japan and starting a new life was admirable.
I enjoyed the ending of the book but felt that the second half of the book was rushed so it didn’t come together properly.
The ending left a sentimental feeling, which was nice, but at the same time left you thinking ‘life goes on.’
My Final Thoughts
I enjoyed Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. It’s a great historical fiction set in Korea and Japan. This is a must read for those interested in an epic family saga!
Belong to a book club? Check out Pachinko book club discussion questions!