Book Review – Pachinko

Pachinko cover 191231

Reader rating 8/10

“Pachinko” is a novel about a Korean family who emigrate to Japan. It covers the period from 1910 to 1989, and tells the story of four generations of the family. It’s a novel about racism and oppression. It’s a novel about identity. It’s a novel about what it means to be Korean, and, in particular, a Zainichi Korean who lived in Japan during the twentieth century.

It’s full of drama; a child conceived out of wedlock; several premature deaths, both violent and from natural causes; success and failure; love and hate.

The women are the most interesting characters, and the most resilient in hardship. The central character, Sunja, is the one who keeps the family solvent when circumstances are at their worst. Sunja’s sister-in-law, Kyunghee, becomes her best friend. While Sunja is homely in appearance, Kyunghee is beautiful. The pair are shown maintaining the family, raising the children, and nurturing the men. On several occasions throughout the novel, one of the women will remind the other that ‘women suffer’. This is not said in tones of complaint but in tones of acceptance; this is how it is, and we get on and live our lives regardless. It’s plainly intended to point the reader to the source of the women’s strength.

Much of the action is by the men, and their emotions and motivations often felt obscure to me. In fact, they seem to be emotionally illiterate. This could be deliberate, but personally I found it rather frustrating. I don’t think most men are ignorant of their emotions, they just perceive them differently from women.

The novel is written in plain English; it is not ‘fine writing’. It is, however, effective. Some of the scenes are conjured up vividly. Even so, I wonder whether there could be less explanation. I know most readers will know little. if anything, of Korean or Japanese life, but couldn’t this be told descriptively rather than didactically?

The novel kept my attention by the events; it’s well plotted. However, it was only towards the end that I started to feel emotionally involved. The last scene is very moving, with Sunja grieving in a cemetery before returning to her best friend, Kyunghee.

This is an important novel because of its subject matter. On one level it is a powerful polemic against racial prejudice and discrimination. At a deeper level it looks at the harm such prejudice can cause through the psychological pain caused by the inability to live an authentic life. Perhaps most importantly, the novel gives a voice to a group – the Zainichi Koreans – whose sufferings are not widely known.

This is a book with flaws, but it’s still well worth reading. You may feel tempted to give up halfway through, but I would encourage you to persist – it’s worth the effort. And despite the flaws, I’m rating it 8/10

What Pegman Saw – Informal Introduction

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is the Aosta Valley, Italy.

WPS - Informal Introduction 191229

Image by Claudio Romeo from Pixabay

Informal Introduction

“Oskar, no! Out!”

The huge Alsatian barged into the gondola of the ski-lift, tail wagging happily. The door of the gondola slid shut.

I face-palmed.

Oskar licked the hand of the girl opposite. She was tall and slender, and long, dark-brown hair cascaded from under her casquette. Her amber eyes were merry and she was smiling.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “He’s not mine – he’s my landlady’s. He follows me everywhere!”

She laughed.

“I don’t mind,” she replied. “I like dogs.”

It took twenty minutes to take Oskar back to base and return.

To my surprise, the girl was waiting at the upper station. “Why don’t we ski down together?” she suggested.

We paused at the mountain restaurant halfway down.

“Can I buy you lunch?” I asked.

“Yes, please. This is my favourite restaurant!”

We ate. We drank. We talked. We had dinner that evening.

We’ve been married twenty years now.

 

Friday Fictioneers – We Will Remember

 Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - We will remember 191227

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

We will remember

Digging through four thousand years of time, the archaeologists reached the stratum of the calamity. Background levels of radioactivity were tolerable in most places, although there were still hot-spots. Saijin, in charge of the dig, ensured that levels were carefully monitored.

Across the world, few structures had survived; they had all been pulverised by the incomprehensible violence of hydrogen bombs. This find, a granite cross set above a polished marble slab, was virtually intact.

“Astonishing,” breathed Saijin. “It must be a monument – there are even characters – perhaps writing – chiselled into the stone! I wonder what significance they had?”

Inlinkz – click here to join in the fun!

What Pegman Saw – Parting

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Asuncion, Paraguay. It’s related to my story “Happy ever after” published on December 21st.

WPS - Happy Ever After 191221

Image by Bernhard Post from Pixabay

Parting

Asuncion market gleamed with thousands of coloured lights celebrating Christmas.

Carlos looked miserable. He hated seeing Jose upset.

“Look,” said Jose. “I love you. I want a lifelong partnership. I will never go with anyone else; I swear by the Virgin! What more do you want?”

Carlos laid his hand gently on Jose’s.

“I love you too,” he said softly. “But AIDS terrifies people.”

“But there would be no risk, because I’d be faithful!”

“I don’t think they’d see that. Do you remember that doctor last year? When he came out as gay, he lost all his patients.”

“Don’t you trust me, Carlos?”

“I would trust you with my life,” said Carlos, fiercely, and then he sighed. “Perhaps we had better not see each other again.”

Jose stared at him.

Carlos looked at his watch. “I must hurry, Jose. I’m meeting someone.”

Jose said nothing – but followed at a distance.

What Pegman Saw – Happy Ever After

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Asuncion, Paraguay.

WPS - Happy Ever After 191221

Image by Bernhard Post from Pixabay

Happy ever after

“I must hurry, Jose. I’m meeting someone.”

Jose raised his eyebrows, pouted, but said nothing.

Carlos sighed with exasperation. He walked away quickly, scarcely noticing the market stalls with their crudely carved nativity scenes and insipid plaster models of the Virgin. The scent of coconut blossom was strong.

“Oh, you’ve come then? I thought you’d stood me up.” Beatriz scowled at Carlos, her prominent eyebrows drawn together, her eyes narrow with irritation.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I had to buy something.”

The waiter hovered.

“We’ll have the fixed price menu, and a litre of red wine,” said Beatriz. The waiter nodded.

Carlos fumbled in his pocket and went down on one knee.

“Will you marry me, Beatriz?” he asked. The diamond ring sparkled in the restaurant’s lights.

Beatriz smiled.

“Yes, of course. I thought you’d never ask!”

Jose, across the square, watched in silence. So. Carlos had made his choice.

Friday Fictioneers – Oops!

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Oops 191218

Photo prompt © Dale Rogerson

Oops!

“I won’t have turkey,” said Kate to herself, “in fact, I’ll try and make the day as normal as possible. And I’ll start now by going for a run. Bah! Humbug!”

Snow gleamed and winter sunshine glinted on the icy lake. Despite Brad’s absence, Kate felt her spirits lifting as she ran lightly along the gritted pathway.

She paused, breath steaming, at the bandstand by the water’s edge, and smiled as she remembered Brad playing the saxophone.

Her phone chimed.

“Can’t do Xmas without you. On 14:15 from Delhi. Love, Brad”

“Heavens! Where can I buy turkey on Christmas Eve?”

Inlinkz – click here to join the fun!

 

pearl of asia

This beautiful poem was written by a talented Australian poet. I think we’ll hear much more of her work in years to come!

Melody Chen

the city wakes without pressing snooze
before heat closes in like a fist

a man brushing dust from his
shoes, that settles
no matter how little he walks
the boy, hands the size of a toy car remote
gripping the handlebars of a motorbike for one
two siblings stacked behind him

and i learn
an elderly beggar
eyes punched full of a shame that trickles
down her face, binds shut her lips
wordlessly pleading for survival
is humanity stripped down to its most raw

but still, how the sun remembers
to fondle angkor wat on its way to the sky
paints a strip of fire the width of one grace
along the horizon each morning

if the lotuses can make the choice
over and over
to build a home in this land
if i can cross the road with my eyes closed
reach the other side safely
and the child…

View original post 25 more words