1. Lean Your Loneliness Slowly Against Mine, Klara Hveberg
Review published by the Courier.
2. Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
Min Jin Lee's The York Times Bestselling Pachinko is a brave novel. If I were to describe Pachinko in a couple words, I would call it sad and desolate.
Pachinko follows a mother, daughter, grandfather, grandson, uncle, son––the list of characters continues with four generations of a Korean immigrant family in Japan. In Pachinko, Min Jin Lee slowly unfolds the long, troubled history of legal and social discrimination faced by Koreans in Japan. Her brave novel is wracked with beautiful descriptions of character grief and prejudice, belittement and mistreatment. Geographically and chronologically expansive, the novel depicts great sorrow, and in doing so, reveals the extroardinary strength of her characters.
The beginning of Pachinko is riveting; the momentum and relationship between the characters is believable. However, midway through I became overwhelmed with the transitions between characters. The momentum from the opening seemed to falter with time, and the story felt a bit directionless to me.
While it was interesting to read about the history and development of a whole family as each member learned to cope with universal and personal expectations of embracing their Korean heritage in Japan, I wish there had been a little more circularity. I was fascinated by the original set of family members (Sunja and Isak) and would have liked to know more about them.
One of the most poignant quotes from the novel is spoken father to son:
You are very brave, Noa. Much, much braver than me. Living every day in the presence of those those refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.
3. Epic Series, Eléna Rivera
Published by the Dundee Review of the Arts, DURA: read online here.
4. The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave
My grandmother introduced me to The Last Thing He Told Me because it was one of her book club's choice of the month. This No. 1. New York Times Bestseller, with over a million copies sold, was met with wide reception in 2021. It continues to receive acclaim from major influencers. I hear that it may be adapted into a mini series on Apple TV.
The Last Thing He Told Me is a domestic drama told from the perspective of a quiet, introverted, middle-aged woman who realises how little she knows about her husband's identity. Faced with his unravelling, Hannah discovers that she, too, must reconsider what she believes about herself. What she is capable of. Who she will choose to protect. Why.
Despite my obssession with cinematic Korean thrillers and Japanese crime-writer Keigo Higashino, I read very little murder-mystery. I wonder if this is why I found it difficult to compartmentalise the novel.
Although Laura's setting descriptions were clear and expansive, I was disappointed by the narrative's pacing. The narrative itself demanded a suspension of disbelief that was difficult to give. There was also a lot of repetition, a lot of dialogue, and not much movement. While this might be necessary for some genres, I would have liked more momentum and edge.