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.
Publisher’s Description: In 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 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.
There 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.
If you like this book…