LITHUB: 5 Books Making News This Week

By Jane Ciabattari

Min Jin Lee’s second novel is a multigenerational saga of a Korean family that spans most of the 20th century. Critics compare her to Thomas Mann and Dickens.

Jean Zimmerman (NPR) writes, “We are in Buddenbrooks territory here, tracing a family dynasty over a sprawl of seven decades, and comparing the brilliantly drawn Pachinko to Thomas Mann’s classic first novel is not hyperbole. Lee bangs and buffets and pinballs her characters through life, love and sorrow, somehow making her vast, ambitious narrative seem intimate.”

“Lee is an obvious fan of classic English literature, and she uses omniscient narration and a large cast of characters to create a social novel in the Dickensian vein,” writes Steph Cha (USA Today). “Her protagonists struggle with the whims of history, with survival and acceptance in a land that treats even native-born Koreans as foreigners . . . ”

“Pachinko is about outsiders, minorities and the politically disenfranchised,” notes Krys Lee (New York Times Book Review). “But it is so much more besides. Each time the novel seems to find its locus—Japan’s colonization of Korea, World War II as experienced in East Asia, Christianity, family, love, the changing role of women—it becomes something else. It becomes even more than it was. Despite the compelling sweep of time and history, it is the characters and their tumultuous lives that propel the narrative.”