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4.31  ·  Rating details ·  353,990 ratings  ·  34,925 reviews
"There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones."

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is marr
Kindle Edition, 496 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
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Deborah I think the game of Pachinko represented life for the Koreans in Japan. There was always the hope that they would have good luck--but, as with the pac…moreI think the game of Pachinko represented life for the Koreans in Japan. There was always the hope that they would have good luck--but, as with the pachinko machines in the novel, someone was always making little adjustments to make sure that they never won. (less)
Priyamvada Because somehow the game of Pachinko and the story of Sunja are correlated. The idea may not occur while reading the book, but once you have finished …moreBecause somehow the game of Pachinko and the story of Sunja are correlated. The idea may not occur while reading the book, but once you have finished it, you'd realise how similar the blueprint of Sunja's life had been to that of the game. Now, Pachinko, as a rule, is not entirely a game of chance - it requires technique and observation (Ofc, that matters only when you've got some luck in your pocket). Sunja's trysts with Hansu were a result of her chance encounter with the bullys. Osaka had been a dream to her, which eventually became the birthplace of her nightmares. Her survival during the war, the changes in the life of her sons, and her relations could all be attributed to chance, yet not entirely - exactly like Pachinko.
Moreover, as a game banned during the world war II, Pachinko thrived and flourished in Japan after it's nadir. But it was largely associated to the rise of Yakuza or Japanese mafia. Since the game was never considered equivalent to gambling, the parlors became a mecca for criminal activities, prostitution and unpaid taxes. All in all, it could hardly be considered a decent job during the time. However, it could put more than food on people's palates, and was the only field where the Koreans could associate with the Japanese on an equal footing. Undoubtedly, such parlors became a haven for the war-torn Koreans, who had lost seemingly everything. And as long as one had riches, what did it matter if the job weren't decent? But the then Japan held many prejudices against those parlors and the Koreans. Lee has brought out the fact that all of them weren't bees of the same hive sticking to criminal activities. Had it not been for Pachinko, Sunja's sons would have never survived. Even the righteous Noa was compelled to take it up as his means of livelihood. And as the author has related, "history had failed them" so they had to detach themselves from history's favoritisms. In the end, Sunja and the people related to her couldn't be called fortunate though they did turn out to be so more than most of the Koreans. What do you call such a life with huge losses that can neither outshine your gains nor underwhelm their importance? Gambling. Perhaps, Pachinko.

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  353,990 ratings  ·  34,925 reviews

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Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Alright, after thinking about this one for the last 24 hours or so, I think I've figured out how to articulate what I didn't like about it.

But first I want to start with the stuff I did really enjoy. The book taught me a lot about the dynamic between Koreans & Japanese, especially in the early to mid-20th century. I had no idea about any of the historical context within which this book was set. And I found learning about it, especially as the author traced these themes and historical elements th
Emily May
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: botm, historical, 2017
History has failed us, but no matter.

Look, I get it. A lot of people won't be interested in this book because they have no idea what pachinko means and what exactly is going on with that cover, anyway? We are highly susceptible to marketing techniques and the cover and title give us pretty much nothing. But hear me out for a minute because this book is really good.

This is a historical family saga set in Korea and Japan throughout the 20th century. It follows four generations of a Korean fami
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a marvelous, deeply engrossing novel about four generations of a Korean family in Japan. There was a lot of story here and a lot of history (of which I was woefully ignorant) and it is all rendered in impeccable prose with a touch of steeliness. Toward the end of the novel, things started to feel a bit rushed, not enough time with the characters. And certain folks just fell away but such is the nature of a sprawling multi-generational novel. I read this in one day because I simply could not ...more
Just having finished this behemoth in the last hour, I want to put a disclaimer first. That reading this over a longer period of time than I would usually read a book, even of this length, probably made me MORE analytic than for my usual review. Or reaction. More critical. Because I truly wanted to give it a higher star value. I really did! But I cannot. So don't be scared away from reading it, because I am specific or amused for some of the tangents she took. Take it with a grain of salt. Espec ...more
One of the most brilliant and heartbreaking books I have ever read, I would like to thank Min Jin Lee for writing Pachinko and starting my 2018 with this splendid saga. Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family who move to Japan amidst Japanese colonization and political warfare. The novel starts with Sunja, the beloved daughter of a poor yet well-respected family, whose unplanned pregnancy has the potential to bring great shame upon her life. After she learns that the baby's father a ...more
Elyse  Walters
A very enjoyable lengthy historical fiction! *A Jewel*!!!!!

Some days Sunja, daughter of the owner of a boardinghouse in Korea, felt chills when she was growing her secret child. If she had agreed to remain the mistress of the rich man in Japan whom she got pregnant with - who was married with 3 children -- she could have been taken care of - and the needs for her child would be met. However - Sunja couldn't agree to the arrangement. She couldn't imagine sharing her life with a man who has anothe
Angela M
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the things I like about reading well written historical fiction is that it can take me to another time and place and can be a profound learning experience. I knew close to nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 through WWII. Last year I read Tiger Pelt which introduced me to this time in Korea which was horrific in so many ways for the Koreans. While this novel begins in a village in Korea, most of the story takes place in various places in Japan, but this is a Korean st ...more
sometimes you need to pick up an international bestseller that everyone adores, that has been called a best book of the year it was published by a million publications, that is book club fodder for the foreseeable future, that is casually referenced in conversation by people who don’t read at all, that skyrockets its author to fame, that everyone says made them cry and shake and see the world differently…

just to be like, yeah. you guys were right.

this is just so good. as good as everyone says.

Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.’

wow. i am speechless. this story is a bittersweet portrait of family, the sacrifices that must be made for those we love, and the resilience to see through the outcomes of our choices. i am so moved by this story.

across four generations, two opposing nations, war and constant struggle, a family lived. a family lost. a family learned. and a family loved. min jin lee has so beautifully, and
Barry Pierce
In the sweeping and monolithic Pachinko, Min Jin Lee documents four generations of a Korean family in Japan from 1910 to 1989. First conceived in 1989, Lee worked on this novel for over 25 years and what a masterpiece she has to show for all her work. Only really comparable in scope to Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle, Pachinko is an education as well as a flawlessly crafted story. It theorises on an ugly aspect of Japanese society and the people who struggle against this open prejudice.

What I know
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
Despite this being a 480 pg mini brick of a book, I absolutely flew through Pachinko on two commutes and a night. It's a sweeping, multi-generational epic of a Korean family, and we follow their collective and individual rises and falls, triumphs and failures, in 19010 - 1930 in Korea under Japanese occupation, and in Japan from 1930 - 1989 as expatriates and Zainichi Koreans. The characters are memorable, well-drawn, and their circumstances and hurdles extremely compelling, from family shame of ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"… there could only be a few winners and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones. How could you get angry at the ones who wanted to be in the game?... Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not."

I hadn’t really understood exactly what pachinko was before reading this novel. This book and Wikipedia have educated me on the topic. The way I envision pachinko is as a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine. It’s a gambling game, where
Lark Benobi
Reading this book was something like having a hard boiled egg for breakfast every day, without any salt, and maybe it's a little past its fresh-date, too, but it's good for you, and never forget that some people in this world don't get any breakfast at all. ...more
Always Pouting
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
While reading the book I was quite immersed and didn't want to put it down. I think the writing was pretty good and I was able to lose myself in the plot. I do think it felt quite long at times, as do other historical fiction novels when they follow multiple generations, but it was understandable here since it was following Korean colonization by the Japanese into the present. I did find the book less strong towards the end. I didn't love how things played out with Noa or Solomon to be honest bu ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs

I had this in my TBR queue for ages. It took making it a book club selection to bring it to the front of the line. It’s described as an epic tale of generations of Koreans in Japan and epic truly describes it. I felt like I was reading one of James Michener’s sagas.

I loved Sunja. She is just so strong. She’s not only part of the underclass, but a woman to boot. She struggles but always finds a way to persevere.

There is nothing better than a well done historical fiction. This one fits the bill.
This book blew me away. It was powerful, heart breaking, educational and inspiring.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Told in chronological order, this book spans 4 generations and nearly a century of time and focuses on Zainichi or ethnic Koreans living in Japan. These Zainichi are essentially stateless citizens registered to Joseon or a unified Korea that hasn’t existed since the Korean War. Up until recently they had to apply for alien registration cards that required fingerprinting every three years and were rarely granted passports making overseas travel impossible. In Japan, ethnic Koreans are seen as sec ...more
Pachinkois a multi-generational, character-driven saga spanning the 20th century, beginning in colonized Korea and ending in Japan.

Reasons why this story got 3 stars from me:
1. Overall, I liked this story about one hardworking Korean family's struggles and triumphs while living in Korea and eventually moving to war-torn Japan;
2.The development of the main characters was good! I could sense their anxieties, even when things were going well for them;
3. I received an in-depth history lesson about t
Rating 3.75

I had gone back and forth on reading this one. I would get it from the library and return it. But it was a National Book Award finalist, so it should be good. My library got the audio and I had to wait months to get it, so it should be good. It's historical fiction and I love that, so it should be good. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I had many issues with it.

Pachinko tells the story of several generations of one Korean family. You first start out, learning about this family and
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

Wow! What a sweeping, beautiful and heartbreaking novel this was. An emotional read about exile, discrimination, identity and generational/cultural expectations. This book follows a four-generational family, originally from Korea, living in Japan.
It shows how our decisions can have an effect on many things in our future lives.

This book first takes place in Korea, 1911. It starts with a couple
April (Aprilius Maximus)
This book ripped out my soul 🙃
Sep 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, corea
Wonderful book about a Korean family that emigrates to Japan. She describes the tension, the changes, and the culture so well, that I felt like I learned a lot about Korea, japan, their cultures, their complex relations. Just wonderful. Totally recommended.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is the second novel by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee.

Pachinko is an epic historical novel following a Korean family who eventually migrates to Japan. The character-driven tale features a large ensemble of characters who become subjected to issues of racism and stereotypes, among other events with historical origins in the 20th-century Korean experiences with Japan.

In 1883, in the little island fishing village of Yeongdo, which is a ferry ride from Busan, an ag
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rich and vivid story spanning nearly 100 years from Korea at the start of the 20th century to pre-war Osaka and finally Tokyo and Yokohama.

Pachinko is a long novel that is beautifully crafted, elegant, passionate with characters that you find yourself rooting for and caring about while reading and will remember long after the novel has ended.

" A club footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen year old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sonja. When Sonja falls pregnant by
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We are deemed to be the directors of our lives and its consequences. Truth be told, we then become the receptors marked by the shadows of others upon us.....given and taken away.

Min Jin Lee begins her story in 1910 in Yeongdo, Busan, Korea with Hoonie, plagued by physical impairments, and his wife who live in a small fishing village. These are the first stones in this multigenerational family mosaic. After many miscarriages and infant deaths, they are overjoyed at the birth of a healthy daughter
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Pachinko is an epic historical saga following a Korean family through four generations as they fight for survival in Korea and Japan. At its heart, the book is a tribute to the immigrant experience and the need in all of us to find a place that we can call home and feel like we truly belong.

The portrayal of what it's like to be a Korean living in Japan while the Japanese viewed them with loathing and knowing that Koreans back home viewed them as traitors is visceral and haunting. The author man
da AL
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could, I'd give this audiobook 10 stars for writing & audio narration. The author is masterful at teaching us history, examing motives with a generous heart, and letting us think for ourselves. The audio narrator is amazing too. ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, 2016, japan, netgalley, korea

3.5 Stars rounded up

Pachinko is a sweeping family saga listed as being for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.

Following one Korean family through the years from Yeongdo, Busan, Korea where a poor fisherman and his wife give birth to a young infant boy. Hoonie, their only child of four to survive, was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot, in addition to a pleasant temperament and broad shoulders.

The year Hoonie turns 27, 1910, Japan annexed Korea. His parents who have been p
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed this novel mainly due to the fact that I had very general knowledge of the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula, however, I knew nothing of the Korean immigrants living in Japan. The novel is what we call a saga, with the time span of around eighty years and set both in Korea and Japan, and is interesting with regard to the history, customs and traditions, both Japanese and Korean, however, there is little depth regarding the character development. Having said that, I admit tha ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The writing was simple, often unfocussed. The main characters from the beginning of the novel get lost as time progresses until they just disappear from the story altogether, while minor characters are sometimes given a POV chapter and then never seen again. The book feels emotionally withholding; seemingly important scenes like a character’s death or a man in Nagasaki during the bombing are given only a few paragraphs or worse, cut entirely. Instead, the book has pages of TV show descriptions. ...more
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Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko (Feb 2017) is a national bestseller, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Reads. Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (May 2007) was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection, and a national bestseller; it was a Top 10 Novels of the Year for ...more

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“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.” 464 likes
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