Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

First line: I learned I had no name on the same day I learned fear.

From the back cover: In early twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. But her country is in tumult under Japan's harsh occupation, and her family's traditions, entitlements, and wealth crumble. Narrowly escaping an arranged marriage, Najin becomes a companion to a young princess, until Korea's last king is assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end.

Najin pursues a coveted education and is surprised to find love. After one day of marriage a denied passport separates her from her new husband, who journeys alone to America. As a decade passes and the world descends into war, Najin loses touch with her husband. Will the love they share be enough to sustain her through the deprivation her country continues to endure? The Calligrapher's Daughter is a "vivid, heartfelt portrait of faith, love and life for one family during a pivotal time in history."

My thoughts: This was an exceptionally written historical fiction novel. While the novel starts out a bit slow and has a somewhat languorous pace, it works well for the story. It's definitely not a quick read - but rather one that you must put down every so often to take it all in. When I started reading this novel, I wasn't familiar with the history of Korea at all, so I feel like I learned a great deal about the country and its people.  I was pulled into the story right from the beginning when we meet a young girl of five who does not yet have a name -- her father refuses to name her. Most of the book is written in first person from Najin's point of view since for the most part this is her story. I loved having her insight into the events in her life as well as what was occurring in Korea -- I felt as if I really could understand her feelings and get to know her. There were also parts that were written in the form of letters to Najin from her mother. This was a great way to speed up time without bogging us down with unnecessary storytelling. I truly enjoyed this book and plan on recommending that my book club read it - it's a book I would love to read again.

I received a complimentary copy of The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim from Henry Holt and Company Publishers to review.


  1. This looks really good. I've never heard of it before, and I love historical fiction novels. Thanks for the review I'll have to add it to my to be read pile!


  2. Thanks for your review! I tried reading this one in the summer. I liked it but just could not get into it right away. Maybe I will try again!

  3. Thanks for your review! I am reading the Calligrapher's Daughter now, and I am finding it to be a fascinating review. I agree, a little slow at the beginning, but finally starting to pick up.


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