K-Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin-lee

Nikhat Parveen, New Delhi

Pachinko is a historical literary fiction masterpiece written by Min Jin-lee which was published on 7th February, 2017, and was distributed by Grand Central Publishing. This novel has cemented its position as the New York Best Time Sellers as well.

Now you must be thinking, what is Pachinko?

Picture Credits: Wikipedia

Pachinko refers to a Japanese gambling game played on a vertical pinball-like machine. It is used as a form of recreational arcade game, but much more frequently as a gambling device. According to the book (till 1990), the pinball business was considered to be dirty and Pachinko gave off a strong odor of poverty and criminality. People in the Pachinko business were thought of as corrupt and unfair.

“You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.


In this novel, author Min Jin-lee tells an endearing tale of hardships and inhumanity suffered by South Korean people. Pachinko tells the story of Korean immigrants living in Japan around 1910; and a family saga that explored the effects of poverty, racism, abuse, war, suicide, and the accumulations.

“Learn everything. Fill your mind with knowledge, it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”

– Pachinko

When the novel opens, we are introduced to Hoonie, “born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot”, who enters into an arranged marriage with Yangjin. Despite their age difference between both; there is a mutual respect and affection between them, because of their shared love for their daughter Sunja.

It is Sunja who proved to be the most important character in the novel. As a teenager, she is seduced by Yakuza Koh Hansu, leaving her with an unmarried pregnancy. But when a sympathetic young missionary asks for her hand, it seems her disgrace will be avoided.

One of the most endearing elements of Pachinko is how honorable most of the characters are. Husbands love their wives and children respect their parents. Even Koh Hansu, who was played fast and loose with the affections of a young girl, spends decades trying to help Sunja, and although she is dismissive of him later, their relationship remains one of the most intriguing ones in the novel.

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

– Pachinko

But, for all the love scattered across the pages, there is hatred too. The monstrous degrees of hardship, disrespect, and inhumanity suffered by the South Korean people make up for a painful reading. They live in unbearable circumstances, are paid less than other Japanese employees, are spoken to disrespectfully, and are forced to register time and again as strangers in a land where they have been born. Jin-lee writes of this maltreatment with a stoicism that reflects the fortitude of her characters, survival is what matters to them, not human rights.

Picture Credits: Wikipedia

I also understood the criticisms of the detached and blunt narration in Pachinko, but I, for one, read this with ease in a steady pace. A lot of things happen within the storyline which gives us a more realistic view about the South Korean immigrants in Japan. Almost like the reader is experiencing it in front of their eyes, rather than just reading about it.

“Patriotism is just an idea , so is capitalism or Communism. But ideas can make men forget their own interests. And the guys in charge will exploit men who believe in ideas too much. “

– Pachinko

I’m absolutely blown away by the beauty and bounty of this book. Each new chapter and every new generation that comes up has something new to offer and you can’t really put the book down easily. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve been angry and I’ve been happy alongside the Baek family. Pachinko is a good read. It is about exile, identity and our fundamental human ability to persevere and be resilient even in the worst of times.

Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend reading this novel. It is a big sweeping family saga that you cannot put down.

You can read the novel from here:

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

37 Comments Add yours

  1. I have not read it but after going through this review I will definitely read it. I think it might be interesting for me. Well written πŸ‘

    1. Thank you very much πŸ™‚

    2. Ahsaan says:

      Writing skills are really good with excellent vocabulary.

  2. What a marvelous, deeply engrossing novel about four generations of a Korean family in Japan. After reading about the book, I could not wait to get the book to read it myself. The review is so magnificently written.

    1. Thank you so much

  3. saumya7897 says:

    What a great and wonderful piece of information…well written article ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  4. anishanath says:

    Though I don’t read many books but this article says how beautiful some stories can be and how it can teach some life lessons. Some stories are really worth reading,so I think I should read this book once. Nice article πŸ‘πŸ»

    1. Thank you so much

  5. Jasmine says:

    I will definitely read this. I heard about this first when I got to know Lee Min-ho has been cast for a drama adaptation of this novel. Amazing Review!

    1. Thank you so much

  6. Anushka Gupta says:

    This article made me tempted to read this book….

  7. mehaksharma2803 says:

    I’ve an idea about the history mentioned in this novel but it will be great to go in depth by reading the novel 🌼

  8. rupalikujur says:

    I’m not really into reading novels but this sounds interesting! There are high chances that I’ll give it a read :))
    Thankyou for the recommendation ^^

  9. SaudaSaleem says:

    The article is written with the full knowledge of the content . good work nikhat.

  10. Sumera..saleem says:

    Good Work Api. Keep it up. Let me borrow your book then.. hehhehehe

  11. NAUSHAD says:


  12. shwets007 says:

    I really liked reading the review and I feel like it’ll be a good novel to feel a lot of emotions. I’m a fan of novels with such storyline and would love to read Pachinko

  13. thatsimpgirl says:

    People often go through reviews and don’t read book. But i swear I’ll read it . And thanks for the review

  14. Smriti. L says:

    Woah!! Beautifully written πŸ’•

  15. Absolutely loved the review! I had always wanted to read this book. Now after reading about it I can’t wait to start it😍

  16. Man, i loved reading this article, i will buy this book, i want to read it too!!❀

  17. Saiba zafar says:

    I was excited for lee min ho ‘s Pachinko, ngl now can’t wait to see what’s in the novel.

  18. Pratap sahni says:

    Keep it up

  19. Pratap sahni says:

    Keep it up

  20. Pachinko remains one of my favourite πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

  21. Thankyou for this informative insight about this novel.. I’m looking forward to see how this novel will look like in its drama adaptation

  22. khiroda06 says:

    Oh my god I’m a basically a psychological book reader but this novel is something which I need to read omg I guess one more book is going into my Amazon cart γ…‹γ…‹γ…‹

  23. Sanchita says:

    Good Job πŸ‘

  24. kylemyoxin78 says:

    I’ve tried my hand on this book and honestly, it’s a masterpiece in itself. A book that I would recommend to everyone because it teaches some real-life lessons.

  25. Farida Begum says:

    I’m currently reading this book and i recommend this too like Hallyuism to everyone to read this fascinating book

  26. Umar says:

    Very good article. Accha likha hai πŸ‘

  27. Billal08 says:

    Never knew pachinko was the adaption of a novel. Wow 😲

  28. amilakaur says:

    Beautifully explained the words of author in this articles….Goona try this novel..

  29. ekta1927 says:

    LlAs a book lover i can really tell that this is one of the best work of Min Jin-lee.

  30. Rizwana says:

    I already read this book , one of my friend suggested me few months back. One of the best fiction novel so far

  31. suhasini17 says:

    Really wanna read this masterpiece now!!

  32. Preeti says:

    reading this review makes me curious and i might read the book in sometime aswell really beautifully written

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