Sunday, January 23, 2011
"The Calligrapher's Daughter" by Eugenia Kim
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Pre modern Korea 1915-1945
Review: A Guy's Moleskine Notebook
Author's web site
Ordered this book after reading a Wash Post review. Obvious connection is Korean background. Historical fiction allows me to learn about history without reading actual history books. Najin is a spirited, strong-willed intelligent woman with a good heart (as opposed to her selfish brother). She desires to do what is right in the eyes of her traditional parents, which makes for a constant internal battle. She finds a good man to marry but after 1 day of being together, they are separated by 9+ years. I like this character and identified with her, although not sure I could be as good as she. Her love for family, her husband, and her country are admirable.
The story centers around a young girl and her family in a turbulent time in Korean history, Japanese occupation and oppression and WWII. Najin is the oldest of two, is close to her mother, a devout Christian who is a traditional, subservient wife and has a distant, difficult relationship with her father. He is a strict, traditional man who did not name his daughter and favors his second, a son. Najin is supported by her mother in the postponement of an arranged marriage at 14 years in order to pursue an education. Eventually she is married to a good-hearted man from a lower caste and is excited to go to America with him.
Opening Sentence: “I learned I had no name on the same day I learned fear.”
Closing Sentence: “Yuhbo, since you’ve been home, there is much I wanted to tell you. The moon swelled as the evening advanced. Its silvery light shone through the clear glass windows and diffused the shadows between us.”