The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

I’m only going to give this book a 3 because I have read much of Isabel Allende’s work and she can do much better.

Japanese LoverTitle:  The Japanese Lover
Author:  Isabel Allende
Publish Date:  November 3, 2015
Genre:  Fiction
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionIn 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family—like thousands of other Japanese Americans—are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

The audio version of this book was okay, but I think there was something missing. It felt as though the chapter breaks or perhaps the text in a print version would have lent itself to the back and forth of the time frame of the story a bit better than what I listened to. The story of Alma and how she came to be at the Lark House was posed as a mystery with some sort of a “reveal” being built up to. I didn’t feel the author did that particularly well.

I did enjoy a different perspective of the Jewish and the Japanese experience during WWII and the struggles each of the characters went through in order to survive and be true to themselves. I really felt that Alma was a three-dimensional character that I would have liked to have known and I totally want to grow old at a place like Lark House. Having Alma admit that she wasn’t strong enough to leave her privileged life in order to follow her heart and be with her Japanese love was just good writing.

badge3v4There was so much build up to the caregiver, Irina’s, background, that I felt disappointed with how quickly she was able to open up and accept Seth as her future husband. I also felt there wasn’t enough build up to the current relationship with Alma and her Japanese Lover even though that’s the title of the book. It fell a little flat and I wasn’t as emotionally drawn-in as I would have liked.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try House of Spirit by Isabel Allende, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, or The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.


About Agent Annie

I am a former Independent bookstore owner that created a 30 books in 30 minutes presentation for book clubs, libraries and avid reader groups. I specialize in short reviews that focus on plot, theme and discussion topics. I primarily read mystery/thriller, who-done-its and sci-fi/fantasy. I love stories in any format and will listen to an audio book as quickly as I would read a paper or digital version. I prefer books that make you think, don't have a predictable ending and tend to have some aspect that is outside the current norm. I tend to enjoy series once I am hooked on the main characters and the world and am very loyal. Some of the books I've enjoyed in the past are: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne & Todd McCaffrey and The Sherlockian Graham Moore. I will also read ANYTHING by Stephen King. As a matter of fact, I wrote a graduate level paper on the leadership styles in The Stand. I will accept review requests.

Posted on February 26, 2016, in Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have always loved her stuff and have this  on my “to read” shelf. Portrait in Sepia was one of my all time favorite books

    Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Note5, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone


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