Monday, May 09, 2011

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Najin Han was born in Korea. She comes from a Christian family and her father is a famous Calligrapher in his time. His work was so famous that it's being commissioned by the emperor. It's the beginning of the twentieth century in Korea. A lot of changes going on and her father is determined to follow the old ways.

She was a head strong girl who is full of curiosity. Her mother wants her to have an education and her father was against it. But with a bit of cleverness, the mother managed to have her ways and Najin went to school.

At the age of 14, her father wanted to marry her off to a twelve year old son of his friend. Her mother defying the father managed to get her sent to the imperial court to serve the King. There, under the tutelage of her aunt, she was presented to the Princess and soon become the Princess playmate. Najin also was given the opportunity to further her study.

Unfortunately, the King was assassinated and the Dynasty ended. She was sent home. Najin was shocked to see that her family have become quite poor. Money were tight but her father held on to his believe that woman should not work. Her younger brother was pampered and had become quite self centred young man.

Nevertheless, with the help of some Missionary friends, Najin managed to find some work and earn some money to help out the family and also save some money to further her studies.

She did managed to further her studies. When she came home, her parents found a young man for her. Surprisingly the young man have a modern view. She fell in love. They got married and planned to further study to America. But unfortunately, Najin's passport was denied. Married for one day and she had to stay back in Korea while her husband journeyed on alone. Unknown to them, this separation is longer that the 2-3 years which they had thought to be.

The War came and the bombing of Pearl Harbour made communication impossible. Najin had to carry on alone and faced a lot pressure from  her in-laws. Later on she went back to her own family and there were hardship too. She was being accused as a spy by the Japanese and was brought to prison.

Over the years, she still feel for her husband. Wondering if they will meet each other again and wondering if he had taken another woman as wife. But during these years, she learn to blend two ways of living together. The old ways and the modern way.

This is the first book that I have read regarding Korea and their way of life. From the book, the old way of life seems to be very strict on women. Not far off from the ancient China.

What I like about this book is its rich in cultural value.When reading the part where her father forbids her from venturing to his part of the house and how Najin did not understand the purpose of it, I was really impressed on how the author presented the view of the father from the voice of the mother. It makes me thing Korean woman have a lot of patient.

Overall it's well written. I only wish that it's more expressive emotionally. This book give me the feeling that emotion are being restrained when writing it. Emotions of the characters were being "described" instead of felt/acted upon.


Joanna said...

Every time I visit your blog I feel so happy. It's been ages since I've been able to finish a book , but reading reviews of books that people have read fill that void :) Keep blogging about books ya !! This book sounds really interesting btw :)

Small Kucing said...


So busy ah. Ya this book is interesting cultural wise.

gangstarosie said...

Nice review. I never read or found something like Korean auto like this. But then it set on that era. Not my cup of tea.

Small Kucing said...


This book is not bad. It's just a bit to descriptive

cheeyee said...

Looks like women born during that time never have easy life. I hope the ending is a good one.

Small Kucing said...

Chee Yee

During that time women born anywhere also no good.


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