“History has failed us, But no Matter”
You know a book is going to be interesting when this is how it starts. I have always enjoyed books that allow me to learn about different cultures and historical events as it enables me to understand from other peoples perspective. This was one which opened my eyes to the injustice and prejudice that Koreans had to go through at the hands of the Japanese during the 1900’s. For me this was more than just a novel it was a deep learning experience into the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to the end of WW2. At many points in the novel i was overcome with sadness because no one on this Earth should have to go through what many innocent Koreans went through during that period and it was hard to read at times.
Anyway as usual i am babbling but i felt the above was important to write about. On wards to the story
Pachinko is a family saga spanning from 1910-1989 taking place in Korea and Japan. It follows four generations of a Korean family through various moments of turmoil and heartbreak as they struggle through times of war and Japans hard hitting colonisation of Korea. The novel begins in Korea moving to pre and post war Osaka Japan and finally climaxing in Tokyo and Yokohama. Many of the Korean characters, their families and the people around them faced discrimination by the Japanese for simply being who they are, Koreans. Moreover Koreans in Japan were unable to find work and feed their families because of this and were considered outcasts by the Japanese. An example being the character Solomon who even though growing up in Japan must renew his alien registration card every three years and can be deported back to Korea at any time.
Furthermore when considering the pace of the book it peacefully transitions from generation to generation. At no point was i confused and thought “wait who the fuck is this?” but instead it unfolded like freshly made bed sheets. I dont want to write any spoilers but basically it begins with Hoonie, Hoonie is a man born slightly disabled with a cleft lip and a club foot. Hoonie marries the kind Yangjin a 15 year old, after many failed attempts they give birth to the irreplaceable jewel in their life, their daughter Sunja. However Sunja falls for a smooth talking suit wearing Casanova who is fluent in Korean and Japanese. Although he comes across as a single businessman, he is married but Sunja finds this out before its too late having become pregnant to a member of the Yakuza. With Sunjas innocence stripped away a life of hardship, sadness and and many many “there’s something in my eye” moments ahead in her life and the generation that follows.
As a whole i loved this novel immensely as it was an emotional roller coaster. Even though its fictional history many people did go through the situations that the characters went through. Also like real life there were many characters who were unlikable but i thinks thats a good thing because it stays true to the human nature of thinking “aye what an absolute fanny”. However there were also many characters who i loved, especially the women in this novel. I felt that the women in this book were the real heroes in this novel as they were the backbone in keeping the family together and showing real courage and resilience during the most dramatic times. There were many times when they faced difficult decisions with there only being one path alone that they could choose.
This is definitely a must read book for everyone. Even though its 500 pages long you will want to read on see how things end up for various characters and family members in the book. Pachinko gives a heartfelt account into the life of non Japanese people in Japan and the struggles they faced but also how they prevailed in overcoming those very difficult moments.