Sunday, January 23, 2011

"The Calligrapher's Daughter" by Eugenia Kim

Published: 2009
Read: 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Pre modern Korea 1915-1945
Rating: 4
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.

Story Synopsis
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.”

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