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Publisher's Summary

Yeongdo, Korea - 1911. In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a 15-year-old girl. The couple have one child: their beloved daughter, Sunja. 

When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then, Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife. Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends and no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja's salvation is just the beginning of her story.

©2017 Min Jin Lee (P)2017 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Pachinko

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    5 out of 5 stars

Lucid, Lovely and Thought Provoking

Pachinko is an intergenerational drama set against the backdrop of Japan colonizing Korea. In fact, Min Jin Lee makes colonialism an omnipresent, over-powering character. It spreads like cancer. We see reality colonize dreams. Identity colonize individuality. The selfish colonize the selfless.⁣⁣
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We follow the journey of Sunja, a Korean girl whose life changes after an affair with Koh Hansu. It just takes a brief moment, one impulsive step for her life to turn topsy-turvy—much like the state of Korea in the hands of Japan. What follows next is an existential tale of three generations of Koreans who struggle with identity, racism, poverty and preconceived notions.⁣⁣
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Pachinko is a gambling game that is highly prevalent in Japan. Gamble is used both literally and metaphorically in this story. Stranded in war-torn times, Sunja and her family’s life are no less than a gamble. When uncertainty looms large on every basic aspect of existence, you are ready to take on any gamble. What options are we left with anyway?⁣⁣
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With deceptively simple prose, Lee puts across the survival struggle with an interplay of a vast variety of perspectives. Each character tries to grapple with the state of Korea in one’s own way. At one point, Hansu remarks that patriotism, communism and capitalism are merely ideas, and ideas can make a man forget his own self-interest.⁣⁣
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We see women trying to hold onto their youth and their suppressed desires. Men grapple with social identity and lost ambitions. We get a sense of the decadent history as the glorified Americanism slowly takes over the Koreans with a false sense of Utopia. Lee deals with everyone without a bone of judgement.⁣⁣
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Reading this book during the pandemic has been rather surreal. It makes you question fate, destiny and free-will. Sunja was never prepared for what lay ahead of her. And neither any of us are. She had little in her control and made the most of it. Maybe that’s all we can do—to take one moment at a time. It’s a good enough eulogy to leave behind, I guess?⁣⁣
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I lived every moment of Pachinko and I think you’ll do too. 

3 people found this helpful

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Living through incredible times

this is more of a saga than just a story. the author has beautiful woven the various evebfa of a Korean migrant family as the move to Japan to make a living. It's so well written that you can imagine being with them through every aspect of their life. the story was very well narrated, though the voice modulation for various characters wasn't very crisp. I loved the story for few aspects: it focuses on the life of women through various eras of last century. it shows the strength and weakness of people as they evolve from abject poverty to a life of privilege. also, even after juxtaposing the abundance that we have now, the pain and suffering of the struggling class is same everywhere. This book clearly shows that most of Asian history has been depicted from the Western lens, and we are not clearly aware of why and how a nation has attained greatness. Initially I expected the book to have too much idle musings to make a philosophical point, but the story did a good job of carrying that without boring us at all. another things that amused me was that The author kept the focus on taking the story forward, and as the few lead characters died, there wasn't too much fuss about showcasing that as a big deal. Death for some of the characters was more of a release. Lastly, halfway through the book,I wondered why the name Pachinko. But after going through some videos on how the game is set and played, you realise that how apt is the title. Life is but a machine, God has set the machine, and you have to manage the rolling balls.

1 person found this helpful

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amazing

This was an absolutely beautiful story. The narrator did a great job as well. Excellent storytelling.

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Absolutely Fantastic

There are some books that stay with you forever with their touching storyline. This book and the way it has been narrated by Allison Hiroto make it a wonderful read. So glad I read this book before seeing its onscreen adaptation on Apple TV. The latter, even though a beautiful adaptation of the book, does not even come close to the actual book. As a reader, I was transported to that era and to the respective places where the author intended to take her reader, be it Korea, the boarding house, the tram station in Osaka, hospital in Tokyo, the US. A soul-touching/stirring story from the author. Thank you for getting me introduced to such a powerful book. I enjoyed the audiobook listen.

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Easy yet addicting

Beautifully simple yet profound .
Recommend to beginners who want to read more seriously as the language is simple yet effective . Also the characters are wholesome , lovable and relatable .

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well narrated!.

Bitter, sweet. what a war can do to people. :(
Break them or make them.

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Excellent

A truly beautiful family saga, kudos to the author for having written such a heart warming tale. The story feels like a river continuously flowing without stoping for anything and depicts that life is like that too. The only thing that remains constant is change. This story is about roots and changes that comes with each generation.

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A bittersweet tale of 5 generations

A lovely book with lots of emotions about sweet Korean family navigating through the changing generations and highs and lows of life.

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four generations summerised

superb book which has 4 generations explained through the culture of Japanese and Koreans. good narration as well. will visit pachinko parlour whenever I get a chance to go Japan.. -)

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PA-CHING!!

The story spans 4 generations and it took me on a journey like no other.There is strife,romance,greed and many other emotions in the story,but the one that stands out the most is the two women's (sanja and her sis in law)loyalty and devotion to their husbands and family.It was painful to learn about the impoverished conditions and the second hand treatment meted out to the Koreans.The narrator Allison Hiroto has done a commendable job and deserves a mention.Though the book is lengthy,it is certainly worth a listen!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ronesh Rampersad
  • 14-07-22

Incredible journey into Korean/Japanese history

This was my first historical fiction novel, coming from a sci-fi, horror and thriller background. So I can't really compare it to other historical fiction novels or Asian authors. Having said that, my wife has read countless historical fiction novels and she thoroughly enjoyed it. For me, it is an eye-opening take on the early colonisation of Korea by Japan and the hardships endured by the Korean people, both in Korea and Japan, spanning a few generations. The story reads like a bit like a fable (not sure if that's a good or bad thing), but overall, a very well-rounded story. There's obviously a lot of research that went into the novel, so there's a great deal to learn about the early 20th century history in Korea/Japan. Very enjoyable, with some sad bits in between. There are some negative reviews out there, but rather read/listen to the book before you judge.

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  • Nwabisa Bangeni
  • 09-11-21

The tenuous threads of families

Min Jin Lee's Pachinko delves into the impact of the political on the personal, the implication of one into the other, and the impossibility of separating the two. The story required of me to leave judgment at the door, and to be persuaded by cultural convictions that are different from mine. I also found the patience to understand and to accept the deep flaws of some characters. If read as the story of a family over the years, then the temporal leaps and character-hopping will not be frustrating. The family lives through many historically significant moments, but the novels dwells on the intimate rather than spectacular. We get to witness the impact of war and strife on the individual lives; we have read in other records how Japan and Korea were affected on a larger scale by the wars, but the novel spells out what the minutes, hours and days of those times meant for families. It is a story of becoming, transitions and the tenuous threads that knit people into families. I enjoyed Allison Hiroto's performance and reading; her voice brought softness into this world of unrelenting challenges, and mediated my experience of it. Having read other reviews, I think readers' preferences and expectations determine the type of encounter one has with the novel. I found it utterly compelling.

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  • Aaron Young
  • 12-05-21

A really lovely and insightful story

The story is beautiful, moving and insightful

Coving topics of racism, sacrifice, forgiveness and friendship it is well worth reading


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  • Matt
  • 25-06-20

Bring on the corn

Instead of stars some books should be rated in corn. This is one of those. I'd give it five bowls. Corn by the shovel full. Want to be miserable for 18 hours and 14 minutes? Then this is the book for you. A lightweight story that should have been one third the length. The metaphors used throughout are lamentable to say the least. Amazed that it was published in the first place. 18 hours and 14 minutes of your life you'll never get back.
Get a Murakami novel instead.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-11-19

Captivating and Informative

loved how she weaves multigenerational stories in a way that makes sense and informative.

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  • Ando
  • 01-09-19

Hopeful and Despairing!

The novel reflects the resilience of the human spirit and of the role of family to sustain the individual person. I almost stopped reading after Noah's suicide but life goes on. We navigate life despite the evil and bigotry that surrounds us because there is also decency and compassion even if it is limited to our small circles.

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  • Tsundoko and Tea
  • 12-06-19

Elaborate, beautifully written historical fiction

Despite being a story that takes place over many years and locations and with a large number of characters it was easy to listen and not be overwhelmed by this beauty. The sheer detail included in the writing is incredible, every character and location gets a detailed description of their appearance and personality, it is easy to feel like you are there or have seen the same places. I would never have picked this novel had it not been a chosen book of Emma Watson's book club, Our Shared Shelf, but I am so glad I decided to go with it. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure. I learned so much about Korea and Japan at that time that I would not have known about without it. It is sad that the treatment of 'foreigners' in this story echoes what is happening in many countries still now... poignant and relevant.

40 people found this helpful

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  • aiden selsick
  • 11-01-20

2 dimensional characters, 1 dimensional narration

All the Korean characters are unfailingly honest, earnest, moral, innocent and hard-done-by. Even if we suppose that this corresponds to reality, it doesn't make for great fiction. It was boring. The pathos in the narrator's cadence didn't help.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-09-20

Sweet, but too long

I have enjoyed listening to Pachinko. It has opened my eyes to a culture I knew nothing about. In fact, it made me realise that every country in the world has their own ‘Koreans’ to discriminate.
On the other hand, whilst the story is appealing, and the main characters are mostly gentle, warm, but long suffering people, it develops into an over sentimental novel. This is possibly because it’s far too long and, in my opinion, some of the characters don’t really add anything relevant to the story. I wish it had not been ‘stretched’ so pointlessly. Well edited , tighter and shorter could have been a much better novel. Hopefully it would not have deteriorated into such a cloying tearjerker.
Still, it is still worth listening to it as 2/3 of the novel are good.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Anton Kruger
  • 11-02-20

Great Reader!

Allison Hiroto does a perfect reading of this book. Fluent and expressive with authentic pronunciation (I think...?). It’s a real pleasure to listen to her. If you like epic novels that follow four or five generations, this book is for you. Ultimately, it’s about how parenthood (particularly motherhood) can play a role in defining your life.

9 people found this helpful

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  • LadyV
  • 24-02-20

Excellent narration and story...

..following a Korean family through four generations in Japan from the 1930s to the present day. I liked how the story and the characters grew on me as I read, a saga patiently told and a real page-turner in the end.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Deborah Cotterell
  • 29-11-19

insightful

really enjoyed learning about Korean culture food and their relationship with Japan. thank you for the choice

7 people found this helpful

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  • Camila Betterelli Giuliano
  • 13-09-20

A story of suffering and hope

I had no previous background on Korean and Japanese history and this book allowed me to broaden my horizons while dealing with the complexity of a honor-based society that is so far from my reality. It is definitely not an easy listen, you need to have some stomach, but there's also a lot of hope, strength and joy.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Gary J Mitchell
  • 18-10-19

Long but Compelling

I cared for the characters and learned a lot listening to this book. Well narrated.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 23-03-19

Pachinko

Real epic novel - great piece of work! The generations covered in the story gave a really rich
authenticity to the struggles over time in this part of the world.
Found it hard to put down.
Stunning characters I felt I actually knew!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Natasha
  • 15-03-20

Beautiful

This is more like a work of art than a book. A beautiful story that paints the picture with such detail.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Barrington
  • 10-06-19

A great multi-generational story

Fascinating insight into the history of Korean immigrants in Japan and a great family saga. It dragged on at the end just a little. Loved the narration.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Blissful9
  • 15-05-19

An Insight into Koreans living in Japan

Pachinko is a lengthy chronicle of several generations of one Korean family from before the Second World War until the 1990s. The author has attempted a to cover a huge expanse of time in great detail which has made the book at times a bit repetitive and long-winded. However, for me it was an eye-opener as I knew next to nothing about Koreans living in Japan. Their life there was difficult and made more so by strict rules regarding what they could and could not do, for example, they could not become citizens. The author shows how all the restrictions forced them into the less reputable jobs such as pachinko worker and eventually owner.If you like sweeping family sagas and are interested in Japan and Korea, then you will really enjoy this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amanda G Scott
  • 01-06-19

Great story

If you are into family dynasty stories then this is the story for you. Provides an Interesting insight into the situation of Koreans in Japan.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-02-22

A modern classic if there ever was one.

FANTASTIC. Lee is today's Dostoevsky. A master of telling the stories of People and souls.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Chelsea J
  • 13-02-22

so glad I listened to this

I listened to this book on an interview recommendation of one of my most favourite authors, Tahereh Mafi. I do not normally enjoy historical fiction, epic drama, or anything of this sort, but WOW. This will stay with me for a long time. The characters are so real, I could see their lives and feel their feelings. what a vivid and compelling story. even if this is not normally your thing, I think you will like it.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Beverley M.
  • 18-04-20

Excellent Book

I loved this story. Every chapter kept me interested. The History of Korea is well written.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-06-19

I loved this.

One of the best books I have read in a long time. Such a beautiful family and what an interesting life they all lead. Great read.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-03-19

Started SO well!

This was a very long listen and covered SO so many characters. I think the book could have been halved as there were too many inconsequential characters. So much sadness and all for nothing. However I did complete the book just to see what would happen!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Bec c
  • 13-03-21

Engrossing

Paints a beautiful picture of four generations. It took me a while to get used to the way the book dips in and out of characters’ lives, but it unfolds and comes together beautifully.

1 person found this helpful

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  • the Chandlers
  • 29-06-20

I loved this sweeping story

wonderful characters and a close up vote of a world we don't often hear about in the English language. I thoroughly enjoyed the depth of each character. No stereotypes. highly recommended

1 person found this helpful