Books

Book Review: Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Min Jin lee balances the light and dark of hardship and love. A brilliant portrayal of the human experience, set against a backdrop of history you’re unlikely to have been exposed to before, Pachinko is destined to join you at the beach this summer.

By Jamila Rizvi

Books

Min Jin lee balances the light and dark of hardship and love. A brilliant portrayal of the human experience, set against a backdrop of history you’re unlikely to have been exposed to before, Pachinko is destined to join you at the beach this summer.

By Jamila Rizvi

To unfamiliar western eyes, ‘pachinko’ looks a little like pinball. In choosing the popular Japanese slot machine game as the title for her multigenerational epic novel, author Min Jin Lee’s intimation is that the fate of human beings is somewhat similar. That our future is predetermined by the circumstances of our birth; mere players in a game of life which gives us an illusion of control but in reality, offers none whatsoever.

Pachinko is a brick of a book and one hell of a story. This hugely ambitious novel follows an extended and expansive Korean family living in Japan. Its timeline spans close to 100 years. Opening in Korea at the beginning of the 20th century, the story tracks the devastating effect of World War II on Japan, the emergence of the two Koreas – as North Korea retreats in on itself, closed off from the rest of the world – and concludes around the 1980s.

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