The Calligrapher's Daughter
Holt. Aug 4 2009, $26.00
When his daughter is born, aristocratic traditionalist Han refuses to name her because Japan occupies the Korean Peninsular. Instead the newborn becomes known as “baby”, etc. Fives years after her birth she is lovingly nicknamed Najin, the name of her mom’s hometown. When Najin turns fourteen years old, her strict father decides she needs a spouse of his choice. Her usually obedient mother objects and instead sends her daughter to the royal court.
Najin graduates from college and becomes a teacher. She goes home to marry, but soon afterward, her loving husband obtains a visa to study in America while she is denied one due to her humanitarian activities. The Japanese occupation turns brutal as they assault Korean tradition and destroy affluent families like that of calligrapher Han. Najin is arrested and incarcerated as a spy while the war expands into WWII.
This is a super look at Korean history from WWI through WWII as seen by the heroine, but also provides some insight into the rich heritage of the country. For instance the ruling Joseon Dynasty lasted over five centuries before the Japanese finally destroyed it in 1910 though the seeds of interring the Yi monarchy occurred in the 1905 Russo-Japanese Treaty that ironically is highly regarded in American history books as top rate Teddy Roosevelt diplomacy. The story line is super as the audience follows Najin’s life, but is owned by the profound look at the brutal Japanese occupation, which turns THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER into an excellent biographical historical fiction novel based on the life of author Eugenia Kim’s mom.