May 19, 2014

Book Review: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Set in Korea during its occupation by the Japanese. That was a setting, I had never looked at, and knew very little about. Many of my historic fiction reads have put me back in touch with history and in fact I think I retain these stories and those pages in history much more after reading stories weaved around the facts.

The Calligrapher's daughter was lent by a friend, and it fit into my Bingo requirement too! Set in a small village, a calligrapher who believes the Japanese are spoiling his country. He who wants a son so bad, he refuses to name his daughter when she is the healthy born child after numerous child related misfortunes. It gives the reader a peep into the ways of traditional lives, with separate living quarters for male and female members of the family. Rules and regulations are abundant and a small girl who struggles to keep up with them, and yet have some fun. As I progressed through the book, a clear message which I seemed to be receiving was that with the influx of Christianity, there was a women's empowerment movement which was being brought about, with new rules and regulations, some which were in complete opposition to the original Korean way of daily living.

The position royalty holds in this Japanese occupied country, and how they navigate through their traditions while imbibing the new Japanese ones also. A life of boredom and confinement portrayed through the historic narrations by the aunt has a lasting impression on the calligrapher's daughter. The story moves through childhood, marriage, WW II, moving houses and losing people on the way. All through we see how a girl who was not wanted, and always chastised for her open, rebellious attitude bring her family together and leave many things behind to be there for them at the time of need.

There were numerous instances where I felt that the protagonist's mother portrays the typical women of the yester years. How they know what is the right thing to say, and they know what is the unsaid. Myself, I fail at it miserably, so this was interesting to read and in fact see how my MIL usually achieves this quite effortlessly. My mother on the contrary I see as myself, who doesn't bother too much about unsaid things, and look at the words which are spoken and act upon that alone.

Personally, this book was a very simple read, very well written and infused with much regional specifics which was good to learn. Traditional beliefs, doings, rules, however you wish to name them, this book is filled with them, but it was all new to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Rating: 4/5


  1. 'The Calligrapher's Daughter' absolutely a very good story depicting the different cultures and thoughts.

  2. hmmmmmm it seems more women oriented



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