“History has failed us, but no matter.” So begins Korean-American author Min Jin Lee’s gripping new novel about a chapter largely ignored in English literature: the Koreans in Japan.
It is only as the reader approaches the end of the novel that the momentous historical weight and narrative ambition of this enigmatic opening hit home. Within a few scant sentences, Lee transports us directly into the joys and vicissitudes of an ageing fisherman and his wife who, in 1910, are living in the Korean fishing village of Yeongdo with their only son, a hardworking, club-footed, cleft-lipped 27-year-old named Hoonie.
Not that the page-turning quality of Lee’s unadorned prose should come as a surprise. She’s renowned for her award-winning short stories, and her debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was declared one of the top 10 novels of 2007 by The Timesof London and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice