Diverse Books · Historical Fiction · World Lit

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – A Book Review

pachinkoPachinko is one of those books that sticks with you even after you’ve finished it. There’s this lingering feeling in your gut that you can’t shake as you ponder all of the wonderful, and sometimes intense, thoughts that are left in its wake. Min Jin Lee accomplishes a fantastic feat with her novel and I feel it should be a necessary read for all fans of Asian history and culture.

Pachinko is a multi-generational tale of war, culture-clashes, family, and what it means to be different. The prose is straightforward while still maintaining an air of sophisticated artistry. The emotions evoked vary from anger, sympathy, sadness, concern, and occasionally warmth. As you read about this family and these characters, you can’t help yourself but get attached. They become ingrained into your being and you find yourself wishing and hoping against any tragedies that may befall them. But this is written during a time when hope simply wasn’t enough. All of these facets came together to provide me with an experience that was breathtaking and riveting.

One of my favourite elements of the writing is the raw nature of war and what it meant to be an outsider in Japan. As a Japanese historian and literature specialist, I can honestly state that the portrayal of Koreans in Pachinko is painfully accurate. They weren’t looked at with any semblance of respect, but instead treated like much lesser beings. The author encapsulates this with precision writing and details to leave you in awe.

I absolutely loved this novel. I will confess that it’s a paced book as the story that unfolds requires the careful attention to details and feelings that are portrayed. Aside from feeling a bit slow, I think it’s vastly complementary to the multi-generational format that’s given. I rate this 4.75 out of 5, and once again, highly recommend this to any fans of history and culture, specifically of the Asian subgenre.

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