Tuesday, January 02, 2018

"Pachinko", an 80 year saga by Min Jin Lee

This novel is ambitious.  It is a multi-generational tale of a Korean family as it evolves in Japan.  The book has been well received in 2017 by many reviewers.  The subject matter is one of historical interest, and it still resonates today in that tense area of the world.  Lee's characters are developed carefully.  The book was enjoyed here for many reasons, but one was not expected.

Every year in the spring, the literate aspect of the media will dream up that year's "beach reading" lists, or maybe it's "summer reading" or "vacation reading".  It is not known whether "Pachinko" was on these lists, but it could have been.  The story is involving but not too demanding, with the length to settle in with when time is available.  It is informative about a significant but maybe not too well known cultural issue, it is set in historical situations, and intertwines Korean and Japanese behaviors.  Yet readers would not necessarily be required to have a background in any of this, as the story itself is not just multi-generational, but also broadly multi-cultural.  Take what you will and leave the rest.

Notwithstanding the fact that it was read here in what turns out to be the dead of winter, it was an absorbing read.  At its core, it could be seen as heart wrenching soap opera of damaged lives and frustrated dreams.  There are times when the book lags as it becomes maudlin.  It always perks up in time to startle the reader back into a "what happens next" focus.  With touches on gangsters and sexuality throughout, it could be a book for cable television series watchers.  If you are one, you understand that comment.


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