Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | Book Review


Hi everyone. I’m Rincey and this is Rincey Reads. Today I’m going to be doing a book review on Panchinko by Min Jin Lee. This is a new release. I believe it just came out in February. I got it in my February book of the month box. And I really enjoyed this book a lot. And I want to highly recommend it to people. I think there were a lot of people who are picking up this book from book of the month. And then when I posted a picture of this on Instagram a lot of people are really interested in it because this cover is like gorgeous, which is completely understandable. And I’m here to say that picking it up just based on the cover I feel like will lead to good results. So this is a multi-generational family story. It follows a family of Koreans who are living in Japan starting in like the early 1900s through about the 1980s. So you follow about three or four different generations over the course of that time. I really enjoyed this book a lot. It reminded me a lot of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which was my favorite book of the last year. I don’t think it’s quite up to that standard but I still think it’s a really fantastic story. It was really surprising to me how quickly I connected to the story. I’m not completely sure how but Min Jin Lee makes, made me care about this family almost from the very beginning. I think because she creates a very sympathetic character in the beginning of the story, at least in my opinion, and then you get to see them have their family. And so you become attached to this family because of this way that this first generation was. At least that’s how it was for me and so I really cared about all the other generations that you got to see. And you get see sort of like offshoots of them as well. So you might see like the daughter’s husband’s family a little bit as well and things like that. So it’s more than just following this one single family line down. You get to see little bits of the offshoots here and there. The other thing that I really liked in the story is the fact that it’s filled with a lot of unlikable characters, in my opinion, and it’s filled with a lot of characters who make not great decisions in life. But you can understand why they’re making the decisions that they’re making for the most part. There are a couple of characters that you come across where you don’t really understand where they’re coming from. Because this is like an Asian / Japanese culture, there is a little bit of distance, I think or a little bit of like coldness here in this family sometimes. But I think that’s because of the culture there. I think that one of the best things about this story is that it talks about the experience of being a Korean in Japan because that’s something that personally I don’t have a lot of experience with or know a lot of the history. But there’s apparently a lot of tension there and a lot of discrimination that happened towards Koreans especially like after the world wars and such. There was a lot of like poverty and struggle for Japanese people during this time and a lot of them took it out on Koreans. They see Koreans as like second-class citizens and seeing how even Koreans who are like born in Japan are not considered like Japanese citizens, which is like so different obviously than the way it is in the United States. Obviously you know, the United States has plenty of problems. But you know like if you’re born in the United States you’re a U.S. citizen like by law. But that’s not necessarily how it is in Japan, which I found so fascinating. So seeing the struggles of immigrants and seeing how different generations are treated differently and how they approach the situation differently and seeing how all of it played out was really, really fantastic. Obviously everyone knows that I’m a sucker for stories about immigrants, even if they’re not immigrants in the United States. And so this completely played into that so well and is part of the reason why I loved it so much. There’s also a lot of really great discussion in here about family and who is like considered family and the people that you love in your life and things like that which I just love so much. There’s a lot of really complex feelings happening in here. This is not like a black-and-white book at all, which I really, really love. I would just honestly I highly, highly, highly recommend this book if you are interested in this at all. Or if you’re interested in just like family sagas or immigrant narratives or just learning more about the culture that you might not know that much about, like me. Then yeah, this book is really well done. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. Like I said, I didn’t love this quite as much as Homegoing, but I think that if you liked Homegiong, you will enjoy this one as well. So yeah, those are my quick thoughts on Panchinko by Min Jin Lee. If you’ve read this book, definitely leave a comment down below. I’d love to talk about this with other people. I know there are other people who picked this one up from book of the month. Or if you have any questions about the book obviously you can leave that down in the comment section as well. So yeah that’s all I have for now and thanks for watching.

24 thoughts on “Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | Book Review

  1. OMG I’m 2/3rds the way through the book and am absolutely loving it. Totally doing a review for this one – I even love the occasional Korean they drop in from aiegoo to ajushee. Can’t wait to finish it but relishing each page so far.

  2. Yeah………..I wonder how long till this admin gets rid of birthright citizenship 🙁 Ugh. Dark days.

    I also chose this one as my BOTM, and yes, partially for the cover! I hadn't heard much about any of the books they offered for Feb, and that cover just jumped out at me, then when I read the description I was like BOOM. Right in my wheelhouse, and I am really eager to read it.

  3. Definitely agree! Totally enjoyed this book. Family sagas are probably my favorite genre. Especially those dealing with immigration! I also agree about how your connection to the family strongly depends on how much you like that first generation. Great review

  4. Ohhh I'm so happy you liked this one, it was the most intriguing BOTM pick for me in a long time but I just could not let myself buy another book without feeling guilty… It's going into my cart next month for SURE.

  5. I've been hearing such good things about this one, also the speed in which you read it and then posted a review, I will definitely need to get to it!

  6. I won Lee's first novel in a giveaway and this one sounds even better! There's just so much to read out there, but her work sounds like it belongs near the top of the list. Thanks for the review.

  7. I have this book and it's been calling my name from the bookshelf ever since I got it! It's good to know that I made a good choice with this BOTM pick.

    Also, your new closing music throws me off every time. I'm so used to the 2016 jingle. I like it tho!

  8. I love book of the month.. I got "Behind Her Eyes" this month. Now I want to read this one as well! I just finished Homegoing and it was the best <3

  9. I bought this, because I wanted to get all the Book of the Month books this month. I am reading Homegoing next, and I think I will probably pick up Pachinko next month.

  10. I will absolutely check this out. I lived in Korea for 2 years and the hatred for Japan and all things Japanese is incredible. You get told that a lot of it comes from the fact that Japan colonised Korea and made Koreans slaves (not to mention, comfort women) so there's a hell of a lot of resentment there. I've never thought about Koreans actually living in Japan during that time so I will definitely pick this up to see what it's all about.

  11. I really, really, really want to read Pachinko. I think I'm going to have to get the US edition because the UK cover is dreadful. Sounds like the insides are as gorgeous as the American cover. Can't wait.

  12. I just finished this book, and I waited to check out your review until after I had finished it, but I agree, I really enjoyed this book. The characters you sympathize with, and in certain respects, really relate to. I also learned a lot about Korean and Japanese history, culture, and food, which is always a welcome bonus. I think what I related to the most were the questions of education vs working in a place like pachinko. The choices the family made, the hardworking mothers, so much of it is transferable to the present, sin e we still are dealing with gender roles, expensive cities, systemic racism, and trying to be happy within the system you are placed in. All in all, I loved it. I've already loaned it to another friend to read!

  13. I love your enthusiasm for Pachinko. The cover truly is gorgeous. I made it my BOTM pick, but have yet to read it. You made me feel as if I should stop my current read & dive right into Pachinko.

  14. yes i definitely agree about the coldness aspect – as an asian person myself, we're just not very vocal or physical about feelings so i think the author did a great job in capturing this. we also reviewed this book as well and absolutely adored it! also, great review!

  15. Good review.  I also enjoyed the book but I had a few issues with it.  I thought the foreign phrases with no explanation were annoying.  I can't stand it when something causes the "spell" of reading a book to be broken – meaning, you're no longer transported to the world of these people, you're in your living room reading a book.  Having to stop and Google words I don't know is a huge distraction for me.I also felt that the end was rather abrupt and unsatisfying and quite honestly, didn't understand why Sunja was so averse to accepting help from Koh Hansu,  I guess it made for a more interesting story, and maybe that's a cultural difference, but I would figure, hey, he helped create this child, let him pony up.  But your review was very good and insightful.  I liked the book too, but I'm with you, it's not 5-star material.  Not quite.

  16. I am reading this book now. I am totally mesmerized with the starting sentence “history has failed us”. This is my first book by this author. I am looking forward for further reading. Thanks for a beautiful review.

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