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Pachinko
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Books of the Month > Pachinko by Min Jin Lee - August 2020 Adult Fiction (starts 2 Aug)

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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 married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history


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What is a BOM (Book of the Month)?

At NRBC we use a more structured approach to our BOMs. A reading schedule is posted prior to the start date and discussion questions are posted each day regarding that section of the book. We ask for volunteers to write the discussion questions for each section, and to engage with responses from the other readers.

More info under spoiler
(view spoiler)


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Chapter Breakdown

Date Chapters %age MPDQs

2 Aug Book 1 chap 1 - 10 18% Joy (Pants)
3 Aug Book 1 chap 11 - Book 2 chap 2 35% Maddy (Murder)
4 Aug Book 2 chap 3 - 11 50% Shannon (Oz)
5 Aug BREAK DAY
6 Aug Book 2 chap 12 - Book 3 chap 2 67% Rajiv (80Days)
7 Aug Book 3 chap 3 - 11 83% Snowtulip (Odyssey)
8 Aug Book 3 chap 12 - end 100% Sunny (Gulliver)


Guidance for DQ setters
Aim for a reasonable number of questions: 4 - 5 is typical. Please don't post too many - any more than 7 gets unwieldy!
Use consecutive numbering of the DQs for your days. So, for example, if Day one is posted as questions 1-4, day two should start at number 5 etc.
Don't worry too much about your questions: you aren't being tested on how clever your questions are!
Hints and tips:
- Is there a quote that jumped out at you? Use that in a question.
- What about the characters - do they generate strong feelings? No feelings? - either way, we can explore that!
- What about that plot twist?!
- Explore the writing style: is there an unusual structure being used? what's the tone of voice like? or the point of view?


message 4: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (last edited Jul 13, 2020 03:42AM) (new) - added it

Moderators of NBRC | 31252 comments Mod
Ruby Coin Book of the Month ~ Ruby Coin Ruby Coin

How to Earn:
Ruby Coin 1 Ruby Coin for half DQ participation
Ruby Coin 1 Ruby Coin for Writing Disscussion Questions
Ruby Coin 1 Ruby Coin for completing ALL days DQs within month of BOM start
Example of ways to Earn Ruby Coins: (view spoiler)

Learn about Gem coins here


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Official Page Count: 548

Volunteers
(view spoiler)

Randomised list:(view spoiler)


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Sophie (drsophie) | 3760 comments Mod
I'll be reading this and volunteer for DQ writing (team Hobbit).


Judith (brownie72011) | 5248 comments Mod
Volunteering for DQs (team H2G2)


Stacey | 633 comments Volunteering for DQs (team Shannara)


Jenny | 5443 comments If anyone else from Rabbits volunteers, then put me down as an alternate please. If not, then I straight up volunteer for DQs.


Marie (UK) (mazza1) | 4943 comments i will volunteer for DQ'S For team fridge thanks


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Cat (cat_uk) | 7121 comments Mod
I'll be Marie's back up for Fridge :)


Maddy | 2089 comments Volunteering from team Orient Express :)


message 14: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy | 281 comments Volunteering from team sisterhood :)


Sunny (sunnyisreading) | 340 comments Volunteering for Gulliver :D


Annalisa | 1295 comments I’ll volunteer for back up DQs for team Murder on the Orient Express.


message 17: by Ora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ora (oeamis) I'll will volunteer for back up for Murder on the Orient Express


message 18: by Sammy (last edited Jul 18, 2020 11:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sammy (sammystarbuck) | 5621 comments Go on then... volunteering for the Deathly team ;)

(if chosen can I have an early day please? :) )


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MelanieJoy (ladybird11) | 1063 comments I will back up joy for team Pants


Tina ❣ (nutrinut) | 1893 comments I volunteer to write DQ for Motocycle Diaries. If someone else from my team volunteers, then I'll be back up


message 21: by Shannon (last edited Jul 15, 2020 08:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Shannon O'Flynn | 279 comments Im in and volunteer for DQ For Team Wizard of Oz (use me as a backup if someone else from Oz volunteers)


message 22: by Louise (new)

Louise | 2491 comments Volunteering for Gulliver


Rajiv (rajivsreviews) | 66 comments I volunteer for Around the world in 80 days :)


message 24: by Lexi (new)

Lexi | 2882 comments Backup for team H2G2


Jammin Jenny (jamminjenny) | 4114 comments Volunteering for Team Shanarra


Snowtulip | 4482 comments Volunteering for Team Odyssey


Christina (chrissy__) | 1753 comments I'll be backup for Gulliver's Travels :)


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Angie ☯ | 1197 comments Volunteering for DQs (team Rabbits)


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Days have now been assigned.

If you can't do your day, and haven't got a backup on the lists in post 3 please say now so we can assign a different team.
If you are late in doing your day we will move to the next team on the randomised list to fill in (benefit of timezones will be given)


Maddy | 2089 comments Thank you, I will be ready :)


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Brittany McCann (brittanylmccann) | 744 comments I can write DQs for Traveling Cat Chronicles


Snowtulip | 4482 comments That date works for me :)


Rajiv (rajivsreviews) | 66 comments Yay I am so excited to be posting my very first DQs. I will be ready =) Thank you!


message 34: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy | 281 comments Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?


message 35: by Ali (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ali | 99 comments 1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

It reminds me about how life has to continue one way or the other. In the book so far we have seen the peasants at the boarding house discuss politics but then go about their professions regardless of the outcome of war and intrigue among nations. They have a preference of an outcome--but regardless they must continue their day to day lives.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th century in general -- before beginning to read this book?

I knew that it occurred but not many details (and I teach history!). I think that in the United States, when it is mentioned at all we generally focus on the conflict between Japan and China and do not emphasize the Korean side of it as much as we should.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

I think he chose not to be up front with her because he liked her/wanted her so much. There is something to be said for his offer to take care of her. However, I think taking care of her effectively goes beyond throwing money at her and offering her a house. I think he was a little narcissistic in his approach. I don't think he meant her ill but I don't think he thought it through. Given the consequences she could have had, that makes me dislike him regardless of his intentions.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

This is a hard decision. In the book she is quickly given another option but that was very unlikely to happen. I think I would have accepted help from him but I acknowledge that it takes a lot of character for her to uphold her ideals even when tested. I think either decision could have been the right decision. She knew what she would have to do/give up with both options and she chose what she thought she could live with. Neither is a good option so either could be the right option.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

Neither couple knew much about each other and bot required patience and sacrifice. Yangjin and Sunja are both marrying men with physical ailments. However, both of these men seem to be good people (at this point). Similarly Hoonie and Isak both took the women out of bad situations (Yangjin from poverty and Sunja from an illegitimate pregnancy). The main difference is I believe that Yangjin married into a more familiar situation while Sunja is going to have to learn how to be a minister's wife even though she knows almost nothing about Christianity.


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Cat (cat_uk) | 7121 comments Mod
Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

I knew of Japan's conquests of Korea over the centuries, and of the longstanding enmity between Japan & China, but not in much detail.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

I didn't hate him: from his point of view it was obvious that he was married (he's mid-30s and successful, why wouldn't he be married?!) and he was offering her a reasonable life.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

I thought it was very brave! As for the right decision? Either way (being unmarried kept mother in her home country or being a despised immigrant in a new country) she's going to get a lot of problems. The path she's chosen has less support structures about her, especially if Isak croaks soon...

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

Both are practical decisions, but Isak's is way less sensible - the difference in experience (and expectation) between Isak & Sunja is much bigger, and fraught with pitfalls, I suspect.


message 37: by Ora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ora (oeamis) Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

If history has failed us it is because we haven’t learned from. If you do not like what happened in the past, then change how you are now. You can change history, only decide how to move forward.
2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th century in general -- before beginning to read this book?
I really do not know a lot about the Japanese colonization. When learning about WWII, it was more concentrated on the European part of the war. From what I remembered, it feels like the Japanese part of the war was a cliff notes version, with dates of significant battles and how POW’s were treated.
3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?
He is a predator and a selfish ass. He took advantage of Sunja’s naivety.
4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?
That it was the right decision. She realized too late that he manipulated her because of naivety.
5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?
Both are practical. Sunja and Isak are going to have issues especially with such different backgrounds, hopefully love will come.


Aiswrya | 804 comments Mod
1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?
In the context of this book, I think sentence refers to the Korean empire's failure to protect it's sovereignty after nearly 1500 years of oppression by China. 15 short years later, it was annexed by Japan. My history is a little murky, so my dates may be slightly off here.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th century in general -- before beginning to read this book?
My mum's a total history buff, so I know a lot of random things about many countries and cultures. My knowledge of Korean culture comes from a colleague from Korea (can't remember if he's from the South or the North). We started discussing how Korean food differs from Chinese and Japanese food and he went on to talk about the history of the country haha.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?
He's a pr**k. He approached Sunja on the pretense of being a "big-brother" (puke) and took advantage of her innocence.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong decision here. Sunja's circumstances were complex - to be (or not to be) an unmarried mother coming from an underprivileged family, with no way to independently support her child or to be a mistress with comfort and wealth? Considering the setting of the story, she would have been scorned by society either way. I think she chose the path that let her sleep at night.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?
Both weddings were practical marriages to make the most of their situations. Hoonie and Yangjin grew to love each other, I hope Isak and Sunja do as well. I really, really hope Isak doesn't die soon after their wedding!


Bernadette Daniel (bernadettedaniel) | 380 comments Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

History may have failed us, but we can't change it.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th century in general -- before beginning to read this book?

I did not know much.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

I've already completed the book so I have an answer that would be different at the beginning than the end.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

I think she made the right decision based on her upbringing and morals.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

Many of these marriages are for practical purposes, but love usually can grow in time.


message 40: by Tammie (last edited Aug 02, 2020 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tammie | 2731 comments 1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?
In general I think we do tend to look at history as a measure for the 'now'. So far this author is very smart in my opinion...the line I'm sure is well thought out.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th century in general -- before beginning to read this book?
If I was taught anything, I've forgotten it. So far this book is very interesting to me.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?
He has purposeful motives that are less than honorable...it makes me not like him!

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?
I believe Sunja made the right decision for her. A definite turning point for her...we'll see how this plays out.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?
Practicality has been used and it's a good word for the similarity. Circumstances leading to are obviously the main difference. I'll admit, I'm wondering what the next twist, concerning Isak especially, will be.


Stacey | 633 comments 1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

I hadn't thought about the beginning line. It is interesting. I think that starting prewar as one Korea knowing that it won't last is important here.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

I really didn't know much at all. I found it fascinating. I think most countries have complicated histories and how interesting to learn about another in the context of complex characters.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

He seems selfish, but able to control himself to get what he wants. Hate is a strong word but I don't like how he uses Sunja.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

I love this. She is a girl who was naive but knows that she wants more than to be a mistress, even with all of the negative consequences for her.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

Hoonie and Sunja never expected to get married due to Hoonies disabilities and Sunja's possibility of being a carrier for them. Both started marriages without really knowing each other. In a way Hoonie saved Yangjin from poverty and Isak saved Sunja from being a complete outcast. But their reasons for marrying were very different as were what they brought to the marriages. I loved the complex, imperfect characters.


Judith (brownie72011) | 5248 comments Mod
Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

That after years of oppression, Japan still took over Korea. But in the day to day that doesn't really matter, life still goes on. Your options are manage or die. I think the author chose this because history is written generally by those who win and everyone else just has to make the best life they can. And I think that's what the MC tries to do.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?
Very bare bones. I don't feel like US education does well with providing much on the history of Asian countries outside of information directly related to WWII and way early days surrounding Marco Polo and the Silk Road. Even that is cursory.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?
No, what he was doing was completely normal in that time period and in his social circle. And in his eyes, he was offering her a better life. In many ways he was. Did I like him? Not really. Hate him though? No.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?
Part of it was pride I think and that she felt betrayed by him. He took advantage of her naivete, but I don't think he intended to ever screw her over. It's a hard choice and neither option was completely correct. But I think Sunja made the right decision for her. Whether that is the right decision for her child though is unclear at this point.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?
Practicality has been used by others and I think that's a good description. Love wasn't the start of either marriage but everyone had a reason for doing it and for wanting it to succeed. If if the reasons are all very different.


message 43: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy | 2110 comments Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?


I do like it, it’s a nicer way of saying “life goes on”. It does fit what I’m expecting of this book.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

Not much, to be honest, apart from Japanese colonization having happened. History is very euro-centric in German schools (for obvious reasons) and most of the care bones knowledge I have comes from reading and a footnotes to conversations in university. That was one of the reasons why I was so interested in this book.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

Complicated describes him quite well. I didn’t hate him, but I think he was maybe a bit unnecessarily cruel. He meets Sanju by saving her from men and then ends up exploiting her himself - that was just very thoughtless, even though his intentions may not have been bad.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

I do understand where she’s coming from and that she felt so betrayed his offer wasn’t even an option. She probably wouldn’t have an easy time as his mistress with a child either, it was going to be a rough time either way. I think ultimately conserving her independence is the right choice for her, though her life probably still would’ve been easier with the financial comfort Hansu could provide. Though we don’t know whether he wouldn’t have lost interest after a while...

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

It’s interesting that they both got married because there wasn’t any real alternative, even though the reasons for that are so vastly different.


message 44: by Joy (last edited Aug 02, 2020 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy | 281 comments Day 1 DQs - Responses

Thanks everyone for such thoughtful answers to my DQs!

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?

I loved Alison's insight here: "In the book so far we have seen the peasants at the boarding house discuss politics but then go about their professions regardless of the outcome of war and intrigue among nations." I picked up on the idea that the fishermen heard news of the Japanese occupation, and the fish brokers were reading newspapers, but didn't relate this back to the first line until it was pointed out! The fishermen complain about aristocrats that sold them out, but that doesn't put food on the table. It has almost a Les Mis feel to it, this idea that the poor are trampled under the progress of history.

I also really liked Tammie's insight: "I think we do tend to look at history as a measure for the 'now'." We often use history to try and inform what decisions we should make in the here and now.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

Even with my upbringing, I haven't taken as deep a dive into Korean history as I would like. I would encourage you to look into the use of comfort women duing the Japanese occupation, which is beautifully addressed in White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht. And by far Korea's most famous historical figure is Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. To learn more about him, I recommend the film The Admiral: Roaring Currents.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

I think Alison's description of Hansu as narcissitic is pretty apt. He is so focused on his own feelings and viewpoints that he doesn't consider that Sunja would reject him when she finds out about his wife and children. He's almost blindsided by a fact that should have been apparent to him.

I also want to provide some context to Aiswrya, who wrote: "He approached Sunja on the pretense of being a "big-brother" (puke) and took advantage of her innocence." "Oppa", or big brother in Korean, is a term of endearment younger women use for older men. It's valid to call both your actual older brother oppa, or a single older man Oppa, whether he's your friend or boyfriend. I don't think that takes away from the fact that he certainly took advantage of their relationship and was predatory, but there's some cultural context to how this word is used.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

A lot of people have pointed out that either of her answers to Hansu would have come with its own host of problems. I think she made the principled decision, and didn't take what I view as the easy way out. I also think that it also would have been an entirely valid choice to become Hansu's mistress, but the social stigma at the time would have been extreme, even worse than the stigma today which still exists.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

Similarities: practicality, health problems with the men, rescue of the women from bad situations (poverty in Yangjin's case, and social stigma in Sunja's case), class disparity between the man and the woman.

Differences: Isak seems primarily motivated by religious reasons, while the marriage between Hoonie and Yangjin seems entirely an economic prospect.


Maddy | 2089 comments DQ - Day 2

6. I might be too judgmental, but her pining for Hansu is constantly making me frown. She promised to care for and honor her husband, never to betray him. Yet she keeps marveling about her lost "love", how she misses him, how she wants to see him, how she has already been in the city with him in her mind, etc. Are such thought not a kind of betrayal? She is so rational and reasonable about what happened and knows full well how he lured her in and used her, but cannot stop the pining and reminiscing about it. Why do you think she can't let it go and focus on her future?


7. After all Isak said about his successful brother and all his dreams about the better life in the city, he arrived to some harsh revelations. I am starting to think they might have been better staying on the island. Isak's brother's revelations about his house, his neighbors, the judgement in the city, the discrimination at work and spying everywhere are very disappointing and brutal. Do you think it a natural disillusion of impossible dreams? Or Yoseb's hope that it might be better for his brother here, where he can watch over him?


8. That scene in the church with the brother and sister. The pastor discussing what it actually means when a wealthy man wants to be a young girl's "friend". The duplicity of the pastor - being nice and not judgmental to the siblings, yet judging them harshly when they have left was not surprising but annoying still. The sweet talk to their face, but harsh berating behind their back would have been exactly what happened to Sunja and her family. Do you think this scene was included to reveal to Isak more truths about his wife's condition and impossible choices to help him understand her?


9. The pastor's reason for hiring Isak was revealed as well - to get money from his family and avoid paying him wages - and I must admit it didn't endear the pastor to me at all. And the pawnbroker and his greed, the loan sharks and their scare tactics. We get introduced to many characters that are not really likable and portray humanity at its worst. Do you think it is a decision by the author to reveal the true nature of people in all kinds of positions in general or is it included to especially note how people get in times of oppression and hard times? I am starting to think Isak coming to Japan was a huge mistake with every little revelation. Do you think it will work out? Or do you agree it was a mistake?


10. The debacle with the watch was very educational. We get to see a merchant's attitude towards women, husband's attitude towards a wife in stark contrast to how men are treated. Yoseb is enraged with his wife and sister-in-law, he can't forgive them or appreciate the help, yet he can forgive and accept when his brother asks him to. Do you think he would have gotten over it in time if his brother hadn't asked him? Or would he be always resentful towards women? The whole "head of the house" part further gets the point home that women will always be under the command of a man, even in regards to baby names. The prison scene also drives home how women are still supposed to be home and stay away from men's troubles, too weak to do something about it. And women who work are still frowned upon, even in their own family. Do you think it will change further in the story? Will oppression and war open their minds towards changing a woman's role in the family and world?



Maddy | 2089 comments Um yeah. When I was writing them, they didn't seem so long. Sorry folks ;D


Aiswrya | 804 comments Mod
Joy wrote: "Day 1 DQs - Responses

Thanks everyone for such thoughtful answers to my DQs!

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What d..."


Thanks, Joy :) I thought Hansu said he wished to be Sunja’s big brother and best friend, before he referred to himself as oppa. Maybe I misheard it (listening to the audiobook, and I’m too lazy to go back and find the chapter haha). Thanks for writing the DQs :)


message 48: by Maddy (last edited Aug 02, 2020 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maddy | 2089 comments Day 1 DQs

1. This novel starts with the sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Did you like this opening line? What do you think it means, and why do you think the author chose it?


I quite liked it as an opening line. I think it was meant to show how history always repeats itself and we fail to learn from it, therefore it fails us by giving more ideas of what to do and not enough to clearly scream- do not do it again. But no matter what, people persevere and continue on. History is history, it is in the past, but no matter what the history is, we should worry more about the present and the future.

2. I am half-Korean, and my mom has shared a lot of the history of her own family and how it's interwoven with Korean history in general. What, if anything, did you know of the Japanese colonization of Korea -- or the history of Korea, Japan, and China in the 20th scentury in general -- before beginning to read this book?

Can't say I know that much. War does not interest me. I find it repulsive how humanity can be so brutal, cruel and careless just for the sake of greed. I don't want to know all the details of how many people died pointlessly for some idea or another that was just that - an idea, something imagined and careless. Men in high places play a game of war, careless to the suffering of people below then, blind to their pain and sacrifices. I do not enjoy knowing details of such things. Most skirmishes happen for the sake of greed - more land, more resources, more money, more something. So I knew there were wars there, but I haven't learned its history and didn't exactly plan to either.

3. Hansu seems like a complicated character. What were your thoughts on him? Did you hate him?

Nope, I don't hate him. He disgusts me, since he is such a sleaze, but I was more struck by Sunji's naivite. Especially after the attack by those boys. He was very similar to them is some regard and not like he bothered to hide his true colors exactly. He never made promises, she just assumed. And it is never good to assume anything.

4. What did you think of Sunja's decision to not accept being Hansu's mistress? Why do you think she chose to reject him? Do you think she made the right decision?

Foolish. Not to sound like a B-word, but she made her bed and had to lie in it. Each choice in life has a price. Every time we make a decision, something must be sacrificed. If you make a decision to work, you have to sacrifice your time and probably health. If you make a decision to marry, you must sacrifice your home to move to a husband's home or if it happens the other way around - then you sacrifice your space and comfort since two people living in the same room is not the same as one person living in it. Each choice in life has its own price, which is not always money. She made her choice in allowing him to do to her whatever he wished. And she got her price - her honor, her pride, her respect. She was not willing to pay it. She hoped for marriage yet never imagined it could not happen, which was her mistake. Of course, he was predator and abused her trust, yet one might think she would realize what could happen. In her situation, I don't think it was a good idea to decline the offer. She had no choice. Of course, for the sake of the story, a new choice was given her and its price was her home and family, so one might argue which price was higher and which one would have been better to bear, yet at that time, it was a foolish decision.

5. In this first section of the novel, we see two couples wed -- Hoonie and Yangjin, and then Isak and Sunja. What were some of the similarities between these marriages, and what were the differences?

I think the main difference in my opinion was that Hoonie and Yangjin never met before the wedding. They didn't know one another, hadn't seen one another and just had to adjust and make the most of what they were given. Isak and Sunja had spent time together, seen each other at their worst and had time to get to know one another. Both couples married for practical reasons and made it work somehow, but H. and Y. started their life together on a positive or neutral note, while I. and S. started it sad and worried. I guess the common thing is that one can always make something good out of any situation. Make the most out of what you are given.


Aiswrya | 804 comments Mod
LOL I got too philosophical with my answers :-P

6. I might be too judgmental, but her pining for Hansu is constantly making me frown. She promised to care for and honor her husband, never to betray him. Yet she keeps marveling about her lost "love", how she misses him, how she wants to see him, how she has already been in the city with him in her mind, etc. Are such thought not a kind of betrayal? She is so rational and reasonable about what happened and knows full well how he lured her in and used her, but cannot stop the pining and reminiscing about it. Why do you think she can't let it go and focus on her future?
Maddy, I see where you are coming from. There's physical cheating and there's emotional cheating. Sunja's thoughts towards Hansu definitely qualifies as emotional cheating but I also won't judge her too harshly for it because she genuinely loved him. There also wasn't much time between Hansu's betrayal and her marriage to Isak (which, given her pregnancy, wasn't a bad thing!) But, it also didn't give her a chance to process what happened to her and get over it. I believe she got her closure when she sold the pocket watch and hopefully won't think of Hansu any longer.

7. After all Isak said about his successful brother and all his dreams about the better life in the city, he arrived to some harsh revelations. I am starting to think they might have been better staying on the island. Isak's brother's revelations about his house, his neighbors, the judgement in the city, the discrimination at work and spying everywhere are very disappointing and brutal. Do you think it a natural disillusion of impossible dreams? Or Yoseb's hope that it might be better for his brother here, where he can watch over him?
I'm kinda on the fence here - yeah, Yoseb wanted his brother closer, so he could keep an eye on him. But, I also think Isak didn't completely understand what his life would be in the city. Going back to how Isak hadn't even thought to inquire about his compensation shows he really was living in a little bubble and didn't look beyond getting to the city for a new adventure/ being with his brother. The grass definitely wasn't greener on the other side!

8. That scene in the church with the brother and sister. The pastor discussing what it actually means when a wealthy man wants to be a young girl's "friend". The duplicity of the pastor - being nice and not judgmental to the siblings, yet judging them harshly when they have left was not surprising but annoying still. The sweet talk to their face, but harsh berating behind their back would have been exactly what happened to Sunja and her family. Do you think this scene was included to reveal to Isak more truths about his wife's condition and impossible choices to help him understand her?
Yeah, I think so. There are many times in life when one says he/she understands what someone else is going through, but do they really? I feel we don't capture an event and it's consequences in its entirety unless it happens to us, no matter how empathetic we are! Yoseb also had several malicious thoughts towards Sunja when he first met her. But, he didn't voice them out-loud, only because she was his brother's wife. This scene definitely helped Isak sympathize more with Sunja's situation.

9. The pastor's reason for hiring Isak was revealed as well - to get money from his family and avoid paying him wages - and I must admit it didn't endear the pastor to me at all. And the pawnbroker and his greed, the loan sharks and their scare tactics. We get introduced to many characters that are not really likable and portray humanity at its worst. Do you think it is a decision by the author to reveal the true nature of people in all kinds of positions in general or is it included to especially note how people get in times of oppression and hard times? I am starting to think Isak coming to Japan was a huge mistake with every little revelation. Do you think it will work out? Or do you agree it was a mistake?
Humans are selfish :) It is the sad reality of life. I don't know if it will work out, but I definitely hope it does!

10. The debacle with the watch was very educational. We get to see a merchant's attitude towards women, husband's attitude towards a wife in stark contrast to how men are treated. Yoseb is enraged with his wife and sister-in-law, he can't forgive them or appreciate the help, yet he can forgive and accept when his brother asks him to. Do you think he would have gotten over it in time if his brother hadn't asked him? Or would he be always resentful towards women? The whole "head of the house" part further gets the point home that women will always be under the command of a man, even in regards to baby names. The prison scene also drives home how women are still supposed to be home and stay away from men's troubles, too weak to do something about it. And women who work are still frowned upon, even in their own family. Do you think it will change further in the story? Will oppression and war open their minds towards changing a woman's role in the family and world
I think it will change further in the story, simply because war makes things harder and more expensive. Yoseb's household is already struggling to make ends meet. I think he will give in and let his wife work.


message 50: by Ora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ora (oeamis) DQ - Day 2

6. I might be too judgmental, but her pining for Hansu is constantly making me frown. She promised to care for and honor her husband, never to betray him. Yet she keeps marveling about her lost "love", how she misses him, how she wants to see him, how she has already been in the city with him in her mind, etc. Are such thought not a kind of betrayal? She is so rational and reasonable about what happened and knows full well how he lured her in and used her, but cannot stop the pining and reminiscing about it. Why do you think she can't let it go and focus on her future?

I think he is her first love and there is longing of what might have been. I think she is a bit naïve about it and was really happy when she sold the watch he gave her.
7. After all Isak said about his successful brother and all his dreams about the better life in the city, he arrived to some harsh revelations. I am starting to think they might have been better staying on the island. Isak's brother's revelations about his house, his neighbors, the judgement in the city, the discrimination at work and spying everywhere are very disappointing and brutal. Do you think it a natural disillusion of impossible dreams? Or Yoseb's hope that it might be better for his brother here, where he can watch over him?
I was really surprised at Yoseb’s home and not as successful as I had thought. I think Yoseb believes he has a good life, better than most. I think he wants Isak there so he can make sure of his health and wellbeing.
8. That scene in the church with the brother and sister. The pastor discussing what it actually means when a wealthy man wants to be a young girl's "friend". The duplicity of the pastor - being nice and not judgmental to the siblings, yet judging them harshly when they have left was not surprising but annoying still. The sweet talk to their face, but harsh berating behind their back would have been exactly what happened to Sunja and her family. Do you think this scene was included to reveal to Isak more truths about his wife's condition and impossible choices to help him understand her?
I was not happy with the pastor. I would like to think it was the time period with how harshly the pastor judged the siblings, however it’s probably just as common today as it was in the ‘30s. Yes, I believe it gave Isak some insight into Sunja how things progressed Hansu.
9. The pastor's reason for hiring Isak was revealed as well - to get money from his family and avoid paying him wages - and I must admit it didn't endear the pastor to me at all. And the pawnbroker and his greed, the loan sharks and their scare tactics. We get introduced to many characters that are not really likable and portray humanity at its worst. Do you think it is a decision by the author to reveal the true nature of people in all kinds of positions in general or is it included to especially note how people get in times of oppression and hard times? I am starting to think Isak coming to Japan was a huge mistake with every little revelation. Do you think it will work out? Or do you agree it was a mistake?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Regardless of good times or bad, there are going to be bad people. I have to wonder with the pastor, if that really happened and if so, does it still happen today. I really think he should have told the church that he could not take the position unless he was being paid for his services. I think it would have been better if he would have asked his brother and sister-in-law to come to him. Moving to Japan has turned out to be a bad idea for him.
10. The debacle with the watch was very educational. We get to see a merchant's attitude towards women, husband's attitude towards a wife in stark contrast to how men are treated. Yoseb is enraged with his wife and sister-in-law, he can't forgive them or appreciate the help, yet he can forgive and accept when his brother asks him to. Do you think he would have gotten over it in time if his brother hadn't asked him? Or would he be always resentful towards women? The whole "head of the house" part further gets the point home that women will always be under the command of a man, even in regards to baby names. The prison scene also drives home how women are still supposed to be home and stay away from men's troubles, too weak to do something about it. And women who work are still frowned upon, even in their own family. Do you think it will change further in the story? Will oppression and war open their minds towards changing a woman's role in the family and world?
No, I don’t think Yoseb would have. He is an old-fashioned man with those values that would get him punched (physically or metaphorically) in today society. I am not so sure I would say he was resentful. His pride was hurt and more concerned what others would think instead of what would be best for his family. I was surprised that Isak deferred to Yoseb. I was just happy he took thought with Noah’s name. I see things changing out of necessity. After the war is over, I would not be surprised if men try to go back the way it was before the war like it was in America. Women could hold jobs that they normally would not have been allowed to during war, but as men come back women start losing their jobs. I am hoping Sunja winds up breaking the mold and has a successful business.


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