The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende book review

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What is The Japanese Lover about?

This multigenerational epic see’s us learn the story of Alma, an ageing octogenarian nearing the end of her eventful life, through the eyes of a carer in her retirement home, Irina Bazili.

With the help of Irina and her grandson Seth, Alma works on her memoirs and the memories of her life flood back. As a young girl in a war stricken continent, Alma left her parents behind in her native Poland to travel to San Francisco and the protection of her aunt in an opulent mansion. It’s here she meets the boy who is to be the love of her life and the son of her uncle’s Japanese gardener, Ichimei Fukuda. Just as Alma begins to settle in her new home and their friendship blossoms, the events of Pearl Harbour means Ichimei’s community are no longer trusted and he and his family are shipped off with other Japanese families living in America to a concentration camp. Through the years, the couple will reunite, but their status and convention means they are forced to keep their love clandestine.

GoodtoKnow says…

Bestselling author Isabel Allende is known for her brilliantly rich novels following the lives of women, and The Japanese Lover is no different. Alma’s incredible life is the forefront of the plot and her story of love, loss and incredible passion for Ichiemi is all consuming. But there’s also Irina’s story.

Irina Bazili is a lone character with a mysterious past – we know she wants to lead a quiet existence and not be noticed. Eventually her story trickles through, with the help of Alma’s grandson Seth. What becomes is a tale of two women who have been misplaced – Alma through a Europe that is ripped by war and Irina through the crippling poverty of her Moldavian village and a mother who promises her a better life, but fails to deliver.

At times it’s harsh and hard to swallow – we learn of Ichimei’s hardships in concentration camp and the sacrifices Alma’s eternally loyal cousin Nathaniel made to keep her happy. Alma is no angel – at times I admired her bravery and at others I scoffed at her selfishness, but it’s this real picture of a character that makes Allende’s novel so unfalteringly believable. Alma is a lifelike woman with believable problems and it’s her life experiences; the good and the bad that make this novel so absorbing.

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Rating: 9/10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: 19th November 2015


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