Min Jin Lee’s second novel, Pachinko, is a sprawling exploration of the lives of Korean migrants living in Japan over the course of the 20th century. For those who don’t know, pachinko is a Japanese gambling game which is kind of a cross between pinpall and poker machines, a combination of luck and chance could see you win. (For those who like visuals, try this Youtube video.)
Japan annexed Korea in 1910, and the following year the match-maker visits Hoonie’s surprised parents in their village outside the port-city of Busan: though Hoonie is responsible and kind, he has a club foot and a cleft palate, and was never expected to marry. The novel follows the course of Hoonie’s one surviving child, daughter Sunja, through her relationship with a married yakuza (gangster) at 16, the marriage to Christian Isak from North Korea which saved her family’s reputation, their time in Osaka, and through the lives of her children Noa and Mozasu as they separately become scorned pachinko-parlour managers, and Mozasu’s son Solomon as he gets a first-class American education and later returns to Japan. It is a generational rags-to-riches story as Sunja’s family fights against facing the prejudice and repression which is the fate of all Koreans, stateless migrants who cannot claim either Korean or Japanese citizenship.
The book is well written and gives emotional insight into Korean and Japanese history, as well as the toll taken by the Koreans’ sub-citizen status in a biased nation. (You can all draw your own contemporary parallels, I’m sure.) A good read for those who like the long-term absorption of the family saga, with the added knowledge from two cultures most Australians aren’t familiar with.
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee – PB – Apollo – $33
And the winner of the Indie Book of the Year is… Jane Harper’s The Dry: for the best Australian writing of 2016, as chosen by Australian independent booksellers. Our congratulations to Jane — we’ve barely been able to keep her book in stock since it came out!
Other prize winners this year:
* Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
* Debut fiction: The Dry by Jane Harper
* Non-fiction: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
* Children’s: Circle by Jeannie Baker
* Young Adult: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
All titles in-store now, or on order in desperate haste if we’ve sold out! Let us know if you want any of the prize-winners put aside for you, and come enjoy some great Australian writing.
Poor Little Hoot. He’s desperate to go to bed, but because he’s an owl he has to stay up late, late, late. That’s just the way it is. So instead of going to sleep when his friends do, he has to stay up playing swords, on the jungle gym, building a fort, jumping on leaves — then ten MORE minutes playing on his skateboard.
A quirky little charmer, this boardbook, just perfect for your little owls who are susceptible to reverse psychology.
Little Hoot – Amy Krause Rosenthal; Jen Corace (illustrator) – BB – Chronicle Books – $15
Komako Sakai, author of staff favourite Emily’s Balloon, has illustrated a lovely new picture book by one-name author Lee. With her characteristic illustration style (we’re bidding that it’s oil-on-board painting), Sakai guides us through Hina’s story of given-lost-found with her baby kitten. It’s terribly high on the child-and-cat cute factor.
The Lost Kitten – Lee, Komako Sakai – HB – Gecko Press – $28
Emily’s Balloon – Komako Sakai – PB – Chronicle Books – $15
This little paperback looks like a decorative history of trains and locomotive engineering, but it’s much more interesting than that! The entire book spreads out to be 139cm long, and each panel has a picture of a train in its historical context: look!
As the book unfolds, it shows you a visual history of trains all the way up to today’s high-speed networks, plus it has key facts on the key stages of locomotive development. A gorgeous item that can be used as a wall display or ordinary book; it’s a great gift for train lovers young and old.
Locomotion: A History of Locomotives – Golden Cosmos – concertina book – Nobrow – $20
The fabulous Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing has announced its 2017 Shortlist:
You’ve got one crime, two fiction and three memoirs to choose from, so if you get reading now you can match your pick to the winner, to be announced on 18 April. Happy Stella-ing!
This book came as a very pleasant surprise. I’ve long been a fan of Holly Throsby’s music, so I was happy to hunker down with her first novel, Goodwood. Set in a fictional NSW town of the same name, the story follows one sad and unusual summer in the sleepy town’s life. Seventeen-year-old narrator Jean tells us about fishing, the high school assembly, Davo’s sleazy uncle from Albion Park, and what happens when Rosie from the chip shop and Bart the much-loved butcher both disappear in one short week in 1992… and all the secrets that are revealed until they are found.
Goodwood is a laid-back, loving portrait of a small town, where each individual has their place be they good or bad. Each character is well-drawn, the early ’90s are realistically described, and Jean’s voice is just spot-on. Less a crime novel than an untangling of relationships, despite the untimely disappearances, Throsby’s plotting and portraiture make this a great, easy read. And since she’s a good feminist (Happy International Women’s Day, everyone) all the wife-beaters and slimeballs get treated with the respect they deserve.
I whipped through most of this in one read, and highly recommend it to those seeking some sensitive Australiana (as The Age thought) or a light-but-deep read. The book is also shortlisted for the Debut Indie Award, due to be announced in a couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for Holly. Enjoy!
Goodwood – Holly Throsby – TP – Allen & Unwin – $29.99
PS And if you’re interested in Aussie crime, don’t miss out on the event at Northcote Library tonight!