Pachinko [Review]

pachinkoThe Skinny: A sweeping epic of a Korean family that starts with the Japanese colonial acquisition of Korea in 1911 in Yeongdo to around 1990s Tokyo. In the years in between, the reader is introduced to several generations that try to make the best through poverty, discrimination, and struggles with identity.

“History has failed us, but no matter.”

It says something that a book manages to hook me into the thick of its narrative by the power of its first line alone. Historical fiction has come to define my year in books thus far. Here’s another one and it’s soooo good!

This book highlighted a part of Asian history that I haven’t quite explored before. I don’t know much about Korea. I’ve been a big enthusiast of Japanese culture since middle school. It started out as an obsession with anime that bloomed to a love of the country’s history, culture, and music. I was only introduced to the country’s racial and ethnic tension fairly recently.

My last semester of college actually where I took a Japanese film class. One of the first movies we studied was a 2001 drama called Go! It told the story of a Korean/Japanese teenager growing up in Japan. It was when I first learned that most Koreans in Japan are treated as foreigners in the land where they were born. It was quite eye-opening and showed me the different ways around the world people are othered and it’s internally manifested in othered populations.

The extent of this truly didn’t hit home for me until I picked up Pachinko. It tells the story of how several generations of a Korean family struggled throughout the 20th century. From colonization to the Pacific War to the modern day. Amidst the everyday struggles of poverty, desire, subjugation, and despair, they scratched out the best living they could.

It’s a beautifully written historical epoch with a cast a wholly memorable cast of characters. It was a great book which also serves as a good primer to begin learning about the social and historical issues confronted in the narrative.

My Rating:


4 half stars