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48 Reviews
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!
This is one of the best books I have read in years. Eugenia Kim has so completely captured the time and place of Korea in the early twentieth century that once you start reading you are transported there. I am not one to usually pick up a 'period piece' or historical fiction but this book is such a delight. Well-written, complete characters that draw you to themselves...
Published on 8 Mar 2010 by CJ Craig

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars True to Her Own Belief
An interesting tale set in Korea in 1915 (and the next 30 years)whilst the country was occupied by Japan. It's written in the first person as though the writer had actually been there and she does manage to capture much of the hardships and cruelty imposed by the Japanese but also there is the cruelty of men to wives and daughters and their domination of women...
Published on 24 Mar 2010 by Richard M. Seel


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4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and precise writing, but absolutely not 'trendy'!!!, 10 Mar 2010
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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This is a beautifully written book, as formal and specific in its prose as the traditional and measured protocols it describes. Which is why I recoiled as if mortally insulted and offended when at one point the central character, Najin, reputedly writing in the mid 1920s, observing the protocols at court, described the noble ladies she was urged to emulate as 'fashionable and TRENDY' Oops! I would not have thought this colloquialism in use!

It seems mean to mention, almost, and I guess if the verisimilitude of the writing, characters and settings had not seemed so faultless, I might not have noticed the T word!

The reason for not awarding 'the final star' is NOT the trendy hiccup, it reflects a slight disappointment in the complete tying up of endings in the last 20 or so pages. To me, they did not ring quite true, and seemed to rely a little on fictional artifice and happenstance - again, if the high standard of the rest of the book had been less, I may have been less dissatisfied with the ending.

Eugenia Kim is clearly a writer to watch. This first novel is a fascinating, educative and enlightening account of a country whose history and culture I knew little about - and I suspect this ignorance is not mine alone. She has written about her country, in the turbulent period between the end of the First World War and the end of the Second, with passion, intelligence, exquisite craft, verve and imagination. Deeply enjoyable, deeply instructive. But definitely not trendy!!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be more interesting, 2 April 2010
By 
J. Yeow "darkspark88" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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A very good read that depicts life during the turbulent times of Japanese occupation in Korea. Its reads almost as a real autobiography in how accurate feelings and situations are portrayed through the protagonist Najin.

However, knowing it was fictional, I was expecting a little more excitement or `story' in the life of Najin, but it is all very standard stuff, and especially a book that spans over 30 years it does get a bit wearing just reading about how she goes about her everyday life, the jobs she's working etc. Beyond the historical background and factual history there is not much of a plot going on. Another aspect particularly grating throughout was the constant never ending referral to Christianity, god, faith etc. It became so preachy on so many occasions as if trying to force the actual reader to believe in this religion. While of course Christianity plays a crucial part in the time period (when Christianity started catching on in Korea), it feels too heavy and largely unnecessary to have every utterance of almost every character reeling on about it. I thought it disrupted the flow of the story and as soon as I would get immersed in the world I would be drawn back out of it again when I came across another whole page of her mother's preaching.

Overall a solid book, one that I find would be a lot more interesting for a reader that has little knowledge of the history or of the customs of Korea that largely differ from western society, as the author relies more on this than her actual `fictional story'.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at Korea, 13 April 2010
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Dinah93 "Dinah93" (Cleveland,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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I love historical fiction, and this is a great example, well researched, clear, sharp and not a tacky bodice ripper in sight. The book follows the life of Najin from childhood through to middle age, charting the loss of Korean tradition in a very short period as the country is occupied by Japan. I found the story fascinating, although I was dissapointed that Najin's husband played such a tiny role, as I felt learning to be a wife could well be one of the most interesting, and challenging phases of Najin's life.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calligrapher's Daughter, 19 Feb 2010
By 
Mr. B. W. Haynes "b & e haynes" (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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First novel by Eugenia Kim has set a high benchmark, hopefully follow up tales will be as exciting as this work. Not a book to take on holiday as it demands your attention until finished. It is too important to become covered in sand and sun oil, using as it does the growing menace to Korea from nearby Japan, as a n essential background to this fictional work, ( a map is essential to the understanding of the story ) in the years of the two world wars and those between. It describes how the Korean's lives are affected between the start of this mini saga and its conclusion in 1945. A really facinating tale.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, a joy to read, 17 Feb 2010
By 
Princess Mononoke (Lancs, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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This was for me a real powerhouse of a story - set against the backdrop of the Japanese annexation and then invasion of Korea, it chronicles the struggle of a nation trying to preserve its culture and traditions in the face of inevitable political and social modernisation. The story centres around the Han family and in particular Han's daughter Najin. Najin is born at the very start of the annexation - to her father she is a disappointment after all his hopes for a son, and also, to him, a symbol of the changes taking place. To her mother though, she is going to be the girl she was never allowed to be, and it is thanks to her mother that she is allowed to go to school and get an education. When her father plans to marry her off, it is her mother who goes against her husband and her traditional Korean cultural values and sends Najin off to become a companion to a young princess at the King's court. When the King is murdered by the Japanese, Najin has to return home and so begins her long struggle to further her education and choose her own path in life.

Najin's life takes many twists and turns, as does that of her family and her country. Korea's struggle against Japanese oppression is excellently documented; we all know of the horrors of Nazi Germany yet similar things went on here that we never hear about.

The story ends abruptly in 1945 when WWII ends, Najin is now 35 and is reunited with her husband Calvin whom she hasn't seen for 11 years. I would have liked to know more about Najin and what happens to her and her family after the war, but that is only a minor point, and it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't get into this book but can't understand why, 25 Jun 2010
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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I like the idea of this story but have really struggled to get into it.
Twice I have picked up the book and read the first chapter then put it down again. Now it sits on the bookshelf staring at me ever time I walk past and I feel it is daring me to try again.
So I tried again today and again failed.
I don't hate this book I just don't like it enough to persevere.
It feels as though I have read the story before as there are a number of books based on the same period around, lots of them based on the author's family.
More originality would be good - I'll move on and read something else.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 11 Feb 2010
By 
Cath B - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Calligrapher's Daughter (Paperback)
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I didn't really know what to expect when I started this book. Knowing absolutley nothing about Korea I was quickly drawn into a complex family situation, where decorum, honour and politics are central, yet the world around is in a state of flux. The characters are richly drawn and are bound by strict codes of conduct where sometimes things are left unsaid. The central character is part of a new generation, one where its women have new expectations, yet are still restricted by paternal expectations. The story has a broad sweep and deals with the Japanese occupation, the destruction of the existing order. It's also a tale of growth, love, family responsibilities, lost opportunities and determination. I was very anxious to finish it and disappointed when it ended. The ancient rituals, sense of duty and overarching history were all brought vividly to life. The main character was very believable and real and I was desperate to see her prosper. A fabulous read.
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3 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars KINDLE SWINDLE, 16 Oct 2013
By 
Ayrshire lass (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought this on basis it was a KIndle Edition. Did not know that Amazon had DRM protected it meaning that it cannot be converted to epub or other format. Had previously bought kindle editions with no problem converting. They do not clearly admit that this is DRM protected.
I own a Sony Reader but not a KIndle device. I bought the Sony 4 years ago and find it superior to KIndle. I could read this book on my computer or on my iphone but prefer the reading experience on my e reader.
I use Calibre to legally convert formats so in past could buy kindle book and convert but sadly no more.
Amazon have effectively cornered market by DRM protecton . They have even prevented UK members of public libraries from being able to read downloaded books through library service Overdrive as although in USA KIndle editions are on overdrive, in UK Amazon does not allow overdrive to use kindle editions and Kindle device does not allow readers to read any format other than their own kindle format.
Kindle users are being hit in the pocket as they should be able to use the wonderful free Overdrive service.
Calibre are recommending that consumers fight back against what they term " KIndle Swindle"
Shame on you Amazon
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The Calligrapher's Daughter
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Paperback - 4 Jan 2010)
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