Tag Archives: Japan

Review: Pachinko

Pachinko

Pachinko
By Min Jin Lee
Grand Central Publishing, 9781455563920, November 2017, 512pp.

The Short of It:

Wasn’t aware of the conflict between Korea and Japan before reading this one.

The Rest of It:

When Pachinko first came out, I had ZERO desire to read it although I know it was quite popular when it was released and is still on many reading lists today. My discussion group selected it though so I got myself a copy and jumped in.

The story is simple really. In the early 1900s, a teenaged Sunja falls for a wealthy stranger and finds herself pregnant with his baby. Coming from a poor Korean family, she doesn’t have many options but when she finds out he is married with children, being his mistress is not one of them.

Along comes Isak. A sickly minister who takes room and board at Sunja’s home. He realizes Sunja’s predicament and offers to marry her. Although she is not in love with him, she knows that this is really the only chance she’ll have at saving face and not completely dishonoring her widowed mother.

The story from here on out is about this family, their extended family and how they, as Koreans try to make do in a Japan that does not want them. Oddly enough, the title of the book, Pachinko doesn’t really come into play until halfway through the book which I thought was odd.

I mostly enjoyed this book but it felt long, had a lot of characters who really didn’t play key roles, and included some odd scenes centered around sex, which seemed really out of place and served no purpose. The author did a good job of describing the way poor Koreans lived and many of the characters possessed a resilience that was admirable. Those strange, interspersed sex scenes seemed to not fit the tone of the book which prevented me from loving this story.

Pachinko has received much praise, but for me it was just okay. It was however,  a good book to discuss, especially over a Korean meal which our hostess was kind enough to provide.

Source: Borrowed
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Review: After the Quake

After the Quake

After the Quake  – Short Stories (single author)
By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375713279, May 2003, 160pp.)

The Short of It:

Simple prose yet so complex. The stories in this collection are thought-provoking and dreamy in a surreal, fantastical way.

The Rest of It:

This is a very brief collection of stories. Six stories, all set at the time of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. None of the stories are really about the earthquake. Instead, the earthquake itself serves as a reminder of how delicate life is, how fragile Japan is and how a tiny shift in thinking can affect our daily existence.

Murakami is a powerful writer. The novels I’ve read so far took me to a place I’ve never been before. A far, out-there place where cats can talk and pimps are named Colonel Sanders. But, this collection of stories is the total opposite of his novels.

There are a few fantastical elements contained within this collection, but they are the sort of nightmarish, creepy hallucinations anyone could experience while sleeping. This collection of stories feels more accessible to me, if that makes sense. I’m thinking that those who found Murakami’s work too extreme in the past, might enjoy these stories. Actually, I’m sure of it.

I read this collection in one sitting. I was mesmerized, charmed and in one case totally weirded out yet I could not put the book down once I started reading it. To me, Murakami is this awesome, Japanese Cowboy who rides into town and sweeps me off my feet with his lyrical prose and knack for dialogue.

I’m a bit smitten with his writing. Can you tell?

Source: Borrowed (but now I want to buy my own copy)

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