Rummanah Aasi
  One of the many things that I like about reading historical fiction is that I get to learn new facts and/or information that I didn't know before picking up a book. I also like how author's pick and use a specific event in history to tell their story. As we all know, history repeats and it's fascinating to see if we learn from our mistakes or not. This week I learned about Japan's occupation of Korea during World War II. I don't know much about Korea, except from the country profiles of North and South Korea, but after reading The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim, I know much more.

Description: Najin Han is the daughter of a calligrapher in early twentieth-century Korea. She is sent by her mother to accompany the young princess in order to prevent her father from forcing her to marry, but when the king is assassinated Najin faces countless hardships on her quest for education and love.

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book. The Calligrapher's Daughter is inspired by the author's Korean mother's experiences. It is a beautifully descriptive and allegorical history of the 30 years of the Korean history. Najin struggles with her traditional upbringing, which is reflected by her aristocratic father refusing to give her name, as well as the 'modern' culture of  Korea as it under goes the occupation by Japan. Instead of wallowing in the inequalities of being a female, Najin takes action in going to college and becoming a scholar, which she feels is both patriotic and humanitarian. She also discovers love when she accepts an arranged marriage. Though all is not a happy ending when her new husband goes without her to study in America when she is denied a visa.
   As the Japanese systematically obliterate ancient Korean culture and the political climate worsens, so do Najin's fortunes. Her family is reduced to poverty, their home is seized and Najin is accused of being a spy while World War II escalates.
  It took me a while to read The Calligrapher's Daughter, because it moves at a very slow pace. We watch Najin grow from an adolescent to a woman. The descriptions are at times vibrant, frightening, and memorable, which I think mirrors the story of Korea's suffering and struggles during the Japanese occupation.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language, but there is a sex scene that it is quite graphic.

If you like this book try: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
1 Response
  1. Nat Says:

    That is exactly what I like about historical fiction too---learning about something new. But I have to admit that I also like reading about the dresses they wore back then and imagining myself all trussed up in a corset kissing Mr. Darcy. :)

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