Recommended: for some people
For folks who like character studies and want to know about every person who pops up in the book, for folks who want a historical slice-of-life from Koreans in Japan in the 1900s. Not for folks looking for a solid plot or driving force through the story,
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 all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.
So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.
What. A. Slog. If the question in this review is “is this a well done book” then my answer is yes, absolutely. But if the question is, as I expect it to be, “did I enjoy this book” the answer is noooooooo. Or a generous “not really.” It wasn’t bad, but boy was it a slow journey through five generations. Sometimes I like generational stories, but this was too much for me. If I hadn’t been already 82% in I would have just DNFd it.
Every character got a mountain of story and I just wanted to focus on one, I guess. I got so tired of each new person. Hana? Seriously? I don’t give a fuck about Hana. Sunja was the most consistent character from start to finish, but the diversions out into everyone else were incredibly numerous. I feel like every neighbor and their cousin got a chapter.
Besides the sheer volume of people and constant shifting focus, looking back on this, there wasn’t a plot, exactly. It’s just a long look at some people during a specific time. That’s fine, but I just wasn’t into it. If you love a character study or some historical slice of life, this is perfect. For me however, I struggled to not have any real persistent conflict or point of tension besides miscellaneous usual life things.
Now excuse me while I read something funny with magic or a lovely little romance. Maybe both.