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.
Recommended: sure For a slow ready to sink into, for a story as it may have happened, for a book where what you want to happen isn’t necessarily what will happen
Elly Ruskin is still struggling to settle. Half-Japanese by heritage, Elly was repatriated to Japan after the war, but Tokyo is a city she barely knows. And now she’s certain her new husband is having an affair with the enigmatic Japanese poet known as Vida Vidanto.
Yet Elly is not the only one suspicious of Vida.
The occupying American forces have their eye on her too. Kamiya Jun has been recruited to spy on the poet and find out why Vida spent her war years in China. He is perfect for the part. A war orphan, he has honed the art of becoming invisible in order to survive. But following Vida leads Jun to the Ruskins. And he soon finds himself delving into their private lives as well.
Then Vida Vidanto is found murdered in her apartment. Is it a case of mere jealousy or has there been a betrayal of a more dangerous kind?
Because Vida had more than one secret worth killing for.
This is not really a happy story, so definitely know that going in. Throughout the whole thing, there’s an edge of tension and fear, so even when things seem to be going fine, it all feels a bit perilous. That’s magnificently well captured because of the situations Elly and Jun each find themselves in, which are certainly anything but secure and comfortable.