Dec 13

Review: The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Review: The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia KimThe Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on 2009-12-01
Genres: fiction, historical
Pages: 386
Source: ARC received from publisher

Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother-but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry fourteen-year-old Najin into an aristocratic family, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her daughter to serve in the king's court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end. In the shadow of the dying monarchy, Najin begins a journey through increasing oppression that will change her world forever. As she desperately seeks to continue her education, will the unexpected love she finds along the way be enough to sustain her through the violence and subjugation her country continues to face? Spanning thirty years, The Calligapher's Daughter is an exquisite novel about a country torn between ancient customs and modern possibilities, a family ultimately united by love and a woman who never gives up her search for freedom.

I love books like The Calligrapher’s Daughter – books that are not only entertaining and interesting to read, but which also open up my world a little further. Before starting this book, I had no real knowledge of Korea’s history, particular the years spent under Japanese occupation. I found the details of everyday family life as well as reference to the political situation fascinating as I followed Najin’s story.

Eugenia Kim shares a wonderful story about the struggles of a confident and outspoken girl growing up into a strong and independent woman in a traditional society that did not value any of these characteristics in a female. It is a very gently told story, despite the conflict between the Korean nationals and occupying Japanese as well as the conflict between traditional and modern values.

Eugenia Kim weaves together Najin’s story with the story of Korea from 1915 to 1945. Najin’s personal struggles, triumphs, challenges and joys reflect the experiences of the Korean people during these decades. While there is a romantic relationship for Najin within the story, The Calligrapher’s Daughter is more about Najin’s own personal journey and character rather than her role in a romantic relationship.

The Calligrapher’s Daughter is an enjoyable glimpse into traditional family life and values at a turbulent time in the history of Korea, based on the life of Eugenia Kim’s mother. I really enjoyed reading it and would certainly be interested in reading future novels by this author.

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1 comment

  1. Pam

    Oh, I’ve heard SUCH good things about this book. So glad you liked it!

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