This strand is also packed with a knowing humour, from the throwaway - “I am a geriatric primigravida, but I don’t look it,” - to her description of labour, “Between the waves of disembowelling wrench the world is shining. I feel like Aldous Huxley on mescaline.”
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There are at least two generations too many in this multi-generational tale; it would benefit from losing the first chapter perhaps, and definitely the last 20% or so. But while that may sound a little damning, without that extra weight this would be a near perfect book. It’s elegant and skilful, thoughtful and refined, and for the insight into the Korean experience in Japan, and a depressing and hopeless examination of Motherhood, this epic is worth reading.
It starts in Korea in 1910 with an ageing fisherman and his wife who become boarding house keepers, but the main plot follows their granddaughter Sunja. Sunja falls pregnant out of wedlock and her honour is saved by a visiting church pastor who asks her to come to Japan with him as his wife. We then follow Sunja’s l...