The Calligrapher's Daughter

The Calligrapher's Daughter

A Novel

Book - 2009
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In early-twentieth-century Korea, 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.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2009
Characteristics: 386 p. ; 25 cm
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780805089127
Call Number: FICTION KIM


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Jul 28, 2018

It gives you insight of Korean history and culture. If you are learning about Korean culture, I recommend reading a few novels, such as this to understand the social structure. This is fast pace and it is an easy read. I was never hooked to the book.

May 30, 2017

Couldn't put this book down. Love all the characters! 😊😊

Apr 27, 2017

this novel started out just great. a young najin is the main narrator. she is about five years old or so when the book begins. she lives in korea, at the early start of the 20th century. japan has occupied korea for years, by the time najin is born. she is the only child (so far) of a wealthy calligrapher, who is employed by the royal court. her mother (in addition to caring for najin) manages the household and the servants. they all reside in a sprawling complex. as najin grows up she is educated at a Christian missionary school. she has a very active and curious mind. her teachers and mother encourage najin to continue learning. however, this desire for further education doesn't go over very well with the father. he is quite traditional in his beliefs where women are concerned. no higher education for females. instead, they should all get married young, and raise children. that sphere should be a woman's only desire. in fact, her father has already arranged a marriage for najin, who is about 17 now. when najin's mother protests this arranged marriage, and boldly tells her husband that najin should continue her education, the father hits her. against the backdrop of this story is the continual rise of japanese imperialism. they have more authority, which includes forbidding the native koreans from protesting against japan's growing powers. they also plant spies amongst the koreans. they insist that the japanese language be taught in schools. the author provided authentic details about the japanese occupation, and the civil unrest by the koreans. she also provides minute details about women's clothing, women's delicate moves (including the perfect way a woman should serve drinks to her husband/guests), etc. however, about a quarter of the way through, i started to get rather bored. it seemed like the author kept overly describing women's rather limited roles in korea. i felt like she was "pounding" her audience over the head re this. we get it! we get it! when najin comes to live with her aunt, who is related to the reigning royal family, there was waaaay too many details about how a woman should conduct herself at all times. ms. kim also overdid the minute descriptions of women's dress at court. the flow of this novel stops about here. if you like too much density in a novel, then this is the book for you.

PoMoLibrary Jul 30, 2015

From our 2015 #80DayRead Summer Reading Club traveler Mallee: Nanjin lives in Korea in an age when the country is torn between ancient customs and modernity. She longs to be educated while her father wants her to marry.

Mar 05, 2012

May Book Club Book

jossung Feb 06, 2012

The history was interesting, as were some of the cultural insights; however, from a literary p/o/v it was a bit weak. It started racing toward the end and I never really got hooked on the characters. Still, a notable addiction to Korean-American literature.

Nov 07, 2011

Meh. Got about 50 pages in and had that doomed feeling that it just wasn't going to get any better. One of those novels where you appreciate all the research the author did on the time period and the details of the characters' lives, and the fact that she's trying soooooo hard, but the story just lay there on the page and wouldn't come alive.

Jan 27, 2011

This is the first fictional novel I've read about Korea and it's very good.
I learned a lot about Korea as well as purely enjoying the story and well developed characters.
I heartily recommend this -- a great read!


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lilylibrarian Apr 28, 2011

The story of Najin Han, but also the story of old Korea's painful transistion into a modern nation under the oppressive occupation of Japan before and during WWII. Najin's father is the last of dying aristocracy; her mother dutifully follows the traditional Confucian values for a virtuous women while upholding the vies of a sincere Christian. Najin leaves this household to live as a companion to the Korean princess, learning the oldest ways, until the royal family is eliminated by the Japanese. She marries and plans to travel to America, but is denied a visa. Thus she ends up a servant in her mother-in-law's home while her husband of 1 day attend seminary in the US. For eleven years.


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