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The Japanese Lover
     

The Japanese Lover

4.0 33
by Isabel Allende
 

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From New York Times and internationally bestselling author Isabel Allende, an exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to

Overview

From New York Times and internationally bestselling author Isabel Allende, an exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/10/2015
Allende’s (The House of Spirits) magical and sweeping tale focuses on two survivors of separation and loss: the elderly, renowned designer Alma Belasco, whose silk-screened creations fuel the family foundation, and her young secretary, mysterious Irina Bazili, who works at the progressive old people’s home, Lark House, where Alma lives. Their narratives, however, go far beyond the retelling of Alma’s remarkable affair with a Japanese gardener’s son, Ichimei Fukuda, its heartbreaking end, and her subsequent marriage to loyal friend Nathaniel—or Irina’s heartbreaking struggle to break free of her haunting past. Allende sweeps these women up in the turmoil of families torn apart by WWII and ravaged by racism, poverty, horrific sexual abuse—and old age, to which Allende pays eloquent attention. “There’s a difference between being old and being ancient,” Irina is told. “It doesn’t have to do with age, but physical and mental health.... However old one is, we need a goal in our lives. It’s the best cure for many ills.” Befitting the unapologetically romantic soul bared here—the poignant letters to Alma from Ichimei are interspersed throughout—love is what endures. (Nov.)
Ellen Firer
“Irina is a young Moldavian immigrant with a troubled past. She works at an assisted living home where she meets Alma, a Holocaust survivor. Alma falls in love with Ichi, a young Japanese gardener, who survived Topaz, the Japanese internment camp. Despite man's inhumanity to man, love, art and beauty can exist, as evidenced in their beautiful love story.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“Moving and powerful…Her novel captivates and holds the reader throughout…The House of the Spirits is full of marvelous and unforgettable women who add a special dimension to the book.”
The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
“The only cause The House of the Spirits embraces is that of humanity, and it does so with such passion, humor, and wisdom that in the end it transcends politics…The result is a novel of force and charm, spaciousness and vigor.”
New York Times Book Review - Alexander Coleman
Praise for New York Times Bestselling Author,
Isabel Allende

“Spectacular…An absorbing and distinguished work…The House of the Spirits with its all-informing, generous, and humane sensibility, is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.”

Cosmopolitan
“There are few trips more thrilling than those taken in the imagination of a brilliant novelist. That experience is available in The House of the Spirits … The characters, their joys and their anguish, could not be more contemporary or immediate.”
People
“Allende’s writing is so inventive, funny, and persuasive that in the process of creating a stimulating political novel she has also created a vivid, absorbing work of art. Her characters are fascinatingly detailed and human.”
Booklist
“Compelling…A splendid and fantastic meditation on a people and a nation.”
The Wall Street Journal
“An alluring, sometimes magical tale…In its tumultuous story of rebellion and love among three generations, it is an allegory in which any family should be able to recognize a bit of itself.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Nothing short of astonishing… Isabel Allende has indeed shown us the relationships between past and present, family and nation, city and country, spiritual and political values. She has done so with enormous imagination, sensitivity, and compassion.”
Ellen Firer (Librarian)
“Irinais a young Moldavian immigrant with a troubled past. She works at an assistedliving home where she meets Alma, a Holocaust survivor. Alma falls in love withIchi, a young Japanese gardener, who survived Topaz, the Japanese internmentcamp. Despite man's inhumanity to man, love, art and beauty can exist, asevidenced in their beautiful love story.”
Library Journal
06/01/2015
Who is sending lovely little cards and gifts to Alma Belasco, a resident of San Francisco's Lark House nursing home? To find out, we'll have to go back to 1939, when Alma's parents send her from Poland to San Francisco to live with a wealthy aunt and uncle after Germany invades. She and Ichimei Fukuda, the Japanese gardener's son, fall in love but are wrenched apart when thousands of Japanese Americans are interned during the war. Through the decades, they keep their passion alive—and secret. With a ten-city tour.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-09-03
Honored last year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her inspiring fiction and soul-baring memoirs, Allende (Ripper, 2014, etc.) offers a saga of a couple that keeps its affair secret for the better half of a century. One of the lovers, Alma Belasco (nee Mendel), was barely 8 years old when her Polish parents, fearing rumors of war could prove true, sent her to live with her wealthy American uncle and aunt in San Francisco; bereft yet stoical when she arrives at Sea Cliff, she found allies who were destined to become "her life's only loves": her shy but devastatingly handsome and uber-intuitive cousin Nate Belasco; and her childhood playmate Ichimei Fukado, the charismatic son of the Belascos' gardener, whose family was sent to an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That this trio will ultimately help sort each other out is foregone, though how and when is not immediately clear. Allende prolongs the suspense, sprinkling Ichi's soulful letters to Alma into the narrative of her postwar career as a textile artist with an outwardly perfect marriage and her abrupt decision to move out of the family estate into a Spartan room at Lark House—a slightly whackadoodle senior living residence that was bequeathed to the city by a chocolate magnate. At times Allende's glib humor misfires ("I get them hooked on a TV series, because nobody wants to die before the final episode," quips a member of the cleaning staff) or seems stunningly off-key ("Mexico greeted them with its well-known clichés"). Some readers may wince at a closeted gay character's soft-serve admission: "Hearts are big enough to contain love for more than one person." But among the white ponytailed hipsters and yoga-practicing widows at the senior center, Alma stands out—she's haughty and self-centered and, after decades in the rag trade, "[dresses] like a Tibetan refugee." She's also a bit of a yenta: she deploys her part-time secretary, Irina (a doughty 23-year-old Romanian émigré), and grandson Seth (Irina's love-struck suitor) to put her letters, diaries, documents, and other detritus in order. Then she toodles off in her tiny car every few weeks with a small overnight bag. Packed with silk nightgowns. Could this 80-something woman actually be meeting a lover, wonders Irina (who is grappling with some secret baggage of her own)? Just you wait. Vividly and pointedly evoking prejudices "unconventional" couples among the current-day elderly faced (and some are still battling), Allende, as always, gives progress and hopeful spirits their due.
Associated Press Staff
“[Allende] is a dazzling storyteller, with a wry, sometimes dark, wit and a great eye for society's changing fashions. She may be writing a fairy tale for adults, but like the best of the genre, it's almost irresistible.”
Book of the Week People Magazine
"Allende's engrossing narrative spans 70 years of tumultuous world history, but the powerful message you'll take away is that love — all kinds of love — will take root and endure under the most harrowing conditions."
The Washington Post
"The Japanese Lover is animated by the same lush spirit that has sold 65 million copies of her books around the world... a novel that’s a pleasure to recommend."
Miami Herald
"Like the incomparable storyteller she is, Isabel Allende does not release us from the novel's spell until the last pages, with a brief but bittersweet hint of her famed magical realism."
Elle
"[An] epic novel from a master of the form."
Harper's Bazaar
"Monumental...A multi-generational epic of fate, war, and enduring love."
San Jose Mercury News
"Allende...delivers a poignant story of race and aging, loss and reconciliation."
theSkimm
"The latest from the writer who's been called Gabriel Garcia Marquez's successor. It's a love story that covers a lot of ground, from Nazi-occupied Poland to present-day San Francisco. You won’t want to put it down."
Bustle
"The Japanese Lover is a poetic and profound meditation on the power of love: a common theme, sure, but in Allende's capable hands this trope is made utterly new."
New York Times Book Review
"[A] fairy tale of a novel...As in all of Allende's fiction, we find a large, colorful cast of characters..."
USA Today
“With The Japanese Lover, Allende reminds us that, while not everyone has a true love, we all have loves that are true. Whether they be passionate, familial, unrequited or timeless,the one constant in our lives is love. And Isabel Allende celebrates them all, beautifully.”
Boston Globe
"Poignant, powerful ...a timeless world without 'tomorrow or yesterday.'"
Goop
"[A] lovely, easy-to-read novel...Like a perfect onion, the book slowly reveals the secrets of Alma’s past, which primarily revolves around a secret, decades-long affair with a Japanese gardener."
Lauren Conrad's Top 10 Fall Reading List
"...if you're a [Gabriel Garcia Marquez] fan, this one's for you."
Purewow.com
"...rich with lyrical prose and compelling plot turns. This is Allende at her very best."
Times Union
"[Allende] is a dazzling storyteller, with a wry, sometimes dark, wit and a great eye for society's changing fashions. She may be writing a fairy tale for adults, but like the best of the genre, it's almost irresistible."
Harvard Crimson
"TheJapanese Lover" erects two thematic pillars of love and prejudice toproduce a story that strikes a masterful emotional balance. More importantly,the novel crafts characters that are profoundly compelling in their complexstruggle to value love despite forces—youth and age, proximity and distance,society and self—beyond their control.”
The National
“She is a dazzling storyteller,with a wry, sometimes dark, wit and a great eye for society’s changingfashions”
Book Reporter
“Thespectre of the war and the illicit treatment of Japanese-Americans are neverlost on the reader, although Allende is too subtle a writer to do any realproselytizing. It is a beautiful and significant love story that she tells,although I was so much more interested in her than in Ichimei as a character.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch
With end-of-life issues looming over Alma, “The Japanese Lover” can’t be called lighthearted. But it’s often wryly funny, and always an absorbing argument for the power of love.
The Missourian
"'Pretty brilliant,' I said once I closed the cover — literary fiction at its best.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781501116971
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
11/03/2015
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
170,623
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Japanese Lover


  • When Irina Bazili began working at Lark House in 2010, she was twenty-three years old but already had few illusions about life. Since the age of fifteen she had drifted from one job, one town, to another. She could not have imagined she would find a perfect niche for herself in that senior residence, or that over the next three years she would come to be as happy as in her childhood, before fate took a hand. Founded in the mid-twentieth century to offer shelter with dignity to elderly persons of slender means, for some unknown reason from the beginning it had attracted left-wing intellectuals, oddballs, and second-rate artists. Lark House had undergone many changes over the years but still charged fees in line with each resident’s income, the idea being to create a certain economic and racial diversity. In practice, all the residents were white and middle class, and the only diversity was between freethinkers, spiritual searchers, social and ecological activists, nihilists, and some of the few hippies still alive in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    At Irina’s first interview, the director of the community, Hans Voigt, pointed out that she was too young for a job with such responsibility, but since they had a vacancy they needed to fill urgently, she could stay until they found someone more suitable. Irina thought the same could be said of him: he looked like a chubby little boy going prematurely bald, someone who was out of his depth running an establishment of this sort. As time went by, she realized that the initial impression of Voigt could be deceiving, at a certain distance and in poor light: in fact, he was fifty-four years old and had proved himself to be an excellent administrator. Irina assured him that her lack of qualifications was more than compensated for by the experience she had of dealing with old people in her native Moldova.

    Her shy smile softened the director’s heart. He forgot to ask her for a reference and instead began outlining her duties, which could be quickly summarized: to make life easier for the second- and third-level residents. Irina would not be working with anyone on the first level, because they lived independently as tenants in an apartment building. Nor would she be working with those on level four—the aptly named Paradise—because they were awaiting their transfer to heaven and spent most of the time dozing, and thus did not require the kind of assistance she was there to provide. Irina’s duties were to accompany the residents on their visits to doctors, lawyers, and accountants; to help them with their medical and tax forms; to take them on shopping expeditions; and to perform various other tasks. Her only link with the clients in Paradise, Voigt told her, would be to plan their funerals, but for that she would receive specific instructions, because the wishes of the dying did not always coincide with those of their families. Lark House residents tended to have myriad religious beliefs, which made their funerals rather complicated ecumenical affairs.

    Voigt explained that only the domestic staff, the care and health assistants, were obliged to wear a uniform. There was however a tacit dress code for the rest of the employees; respect and good taste were the order of the day when it came to clothes. For example, he said emphatically, the T-shirt printed with Malcolm X’s face that Irina was wearing was definitely inappropriate. In fact it wasn’t Malcolm X but Che Guevara, but Irina didn’t tell him this because she assumed that Hans Voigt would never have heard of the guerrilla leader who fifty years after his heroic exploits was still worshipped in Cuba and by a handful of radical followers in Berkeley, where she was living. The T-shirt had cost two dollars in a used clothing store, and was almost new.

    “No smoking on the premises,” the director warned her.

    “I don’t smoke or drink, sir.”

    “Is your health good? That’s important when you’re dealing with old people.”

    “Yes.”

    “Anything special I ought to know about you?”

    “Well, I’m addicted to fantasy videos and novels. You know, like Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman.”

    “What you do in your free time is your business, young lady, just as long as you stay focused at work.”

    “Of course. Listen, sir, if you give me a chance you’ll see I know how to get along with elderly people. You won’t regret it,” the young woman said with feigned self-assurance.

    Once the formal interview in his office was concluded, Voigt showed her around the premises, which housed some two hundred and fifty people, with an average age of eighty-five. Lark House had once been the magnificent property of a chocolate magnate, who not only bequeathed it to the city but left a generous donation to finance its upkeep. It consisted of the main house, a pretentious mansion where the offices, communal areas, library, dining room, and workshops were situated, and a row of pleasant redwood tile buildings that fitted in well with the ten acres of grounds, which looked wild but were in fact carefully tended by a host of gardeners. The independent apartments and the buildings housing the second- and third-level residents were linked by wide, enclosed walkways, which allowed wheelchairs to circulate sheltered from the extremes of climate, but were glassed in on both sides to provide a view of nature, the best solace for the troubles of all ages. Paradise, a detached concrete building, would have looked out of place were it not for the fact it was completely overgrown with ivy. The library and games room were open day and night, the beauty salon kept flexible hours, and the workshops provided a variety of classes from painting to astrology for those who still longed for pleasant surprises in their future. The Shop of Forgotten Objects, staffed by volunteer ladies, offered for sale clothing, furniture, jewelry, and other treasures cast off by the residents, or left behind by the deceased.

    “We have an excellent cinema club and show films three times a week in the library,” Voigt told her.

    “What kind of films?” asked Irina, hoping they might contain vampires or science fiction.

    “A committee chooses them, and they prefer crime movies, especially Tarantino. There’s a certain fascination with violence in here, but don’t worry, they’re well aware it’s fiction and that the actors will reappear safe and sound in other films. Let’s call it a safety valve. Several of our guests fantasize about killing somebody, usually a family member.”

    “Me too,” said Irina without hesitation.

    Thinking she must be joking, Voigt laughed indulgently. He appreciated a sense of humor almost as much as he did patience among his staff.

    Squirrels and an unusually large number of deer roamed freely among the ancient trees of the grounds, Voigt explained, adding that the does gave birth to and raised their young until they could fend for themselves. The grounds also served as a bird sanctuary, above all for skylarks, whose presence there had given the facility its name: Lark House. There were several cameras strategically placed to monitor the animals in their habitat and also any residents who might wander off or suffer an accident, but Lark House had no strict security measures. By day the main gates remained open, with only a couple of unarmed guards patrolling the grounds. These two retired policemen, aged seventy and seventy-four, offered more than adequate protection, since no thief in his right mind would waste time on penniless old folks.

    Voigt and Irina passed a pair of women in wheelchairs, a group carrying easels and paint boxes to an open-air art class, and several residents out exercising dogs as careworn as them. The property adjoined the bay, and when the tide came in it was possible to go kayaking, which some of the residents not yet disabled by their infirmities were happy to do. This is how I would like to live, thought Irina, taking deep breaths of the sweet aroma of pines and laurels. She couldn’t help comparing these pleasant surroundings to the sordid dives she had drifted through since the age of fifteen.

    “Last but not least, Miss Bazili, I should mention the two ghosts, because I’m sure that will be the first thing our Haitian staff will tell you about.”

    “I don’t believe in ghosts, Mr. Voigt.”

    “Congratulations. Neither do I. The ones in Lark House are a young woman wearing a pink gauze dress, and a three-year-old child. The woman is Emily, the chocolate magnate’s daughter. Poor Emily died of grief after her son drowned in the pool at the end of the 1940s. It was then that the magnate abandoned the house and created the Lark House Foundation.”

    “Did the boy drown in the pool you showed me?”

    “Yes, but no one else has died there that I know of.”

    Irina soon changed her mind about ghosts, realizing that Emily and her son weren’t the only resident spirits. She was to discover that many of the old folk were permanently accompanied by their dead.

    Early the next morning, Irina arrived at work in her best pair of jeans and a discreet T-shirt. She quickly confirmed that the atmosphere at Lark House was relaxed without being negligent. It was more like a college than an old people’s home. The food was as good as that of any reasonable Californian restaurant, and organic as far as possible. The cleaning staff did a thorough job, and the health aides and nurses were as cheerful as could be expected under the circumstances. It took her only a few days to learn the names and quirks of her colleagues and the residents in her care. The handful of Spanish and French phrases she memorized helped win over the staff, who came almost exclusively from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. Although what they earned did not correspond to the hard work they put in, very few of them went around with long faces.

    “You have to spoil the grannies a bit, but always treat them with respect. The same goes for the grandpas, but you need to watch out for them, because some of them get up to mischief,” she was told by Lupita Farias, a stocky woman with the features of an Olmec statue who was head of the cleaning staff. Having worked at Lark House for thirty-two years and having access to every room, Lupita knew all the inhabitants intimately. She had learned about their lives, could see at a glance what was wrong with them, and accompanied them in their sorrows.

    “Watch out for depression, Irina. That’s very common here. If you notice that somebody seems isolated or very sad, if they stay in bed or stop eating, come and find me right away, okay?”

    “What do you do in those cases, Lupita?”

    “It depends. I stroke them, and they always like that, because old people don’t have anyone who touches them, and I get them hooked on a TV series, because nobody wants to die before the final episode. Some of them find comfort in prayer, but there are lots of atheists here, and they don’t pray. What’s most important is not to leave them on their own. If I’m not around, go and see Cathy. She knows what to do.”

    Dr. Catherine Hope, a second-level resident, had been the first person to welcome Irina on behalf of the community. At sixty-eight, she was the youngest resident. Ever since being confined to a wheelchair she had opted for the help and company that Lark House offered. She had been living there a couple of years and during that time had become the life and soul of the place.

    “The elderly are the most entertaining people in the world,” she eventually told Irina. “They have lived a lot, say whatever they like, and couldn’t care less about other people’s opinion. You’ll never get bored here. Our residents are well educated, and if they’re in good health they keep on learning and experimenting. This community stimulates them and they can avoid the worst scourge of old age: loneliness.”

    Irina knew from newspaper reports about the progressive spirit of the Lark House residents. There was a waiting list of several years for admission, which would have been much longer if many of the candidates had not passed away before it was their turn. The old folks in the home were conclusive proof that age, despite all its limitations, does not stop one from having fun and taking part in the hubbub of life. Several of the residents who were active members of Seniors for Peace spent their Friday mornings in street protests at the aberrations and injustices in the world, especially those committed by the American empire, for which they felt responsible. These activists, among whom was an old lady aged a hundred and one, met up in the northern corner of the square opposite the police station with their canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. They held up banners against war or global warming, while the public showed their support by honking their car horns or signing petitions that these furious elders stuck under their noses. The protesters had appeared on television on more than one occasion, while the police were made to look ridiculous as they tried to disperse them with threats of tear gas that never materialized. Clearly moved, Voigt had shown Irina a plaque in the park in honor of a ninety-six-year-old musician, who had died of a seizure with his boots on in broad daylight during a 2006 protest against the war in Iraq.

    Irina had grown up in a Moldovan village that was inhabited only by old people and children. She thought of her own grandparents and, as so often in recent years, regretted having abandoned them. Lark House gave her the opportunity to give to others what she hadn’t been able to give them, and she kept this in mind as she began looking after those in her care. She soon won the residents over, including several on the first level, the independent ones.

    From the start, Alma Belasco had caught her attention. She stood out from the other women thanks not only to her aristocratic bearing but to the magnetic force field that seemed to separate her from the rest of humanity. Lupita insisted that the Belasco woman did not fit in at Lark House and would not last long: any day now the same chauffeur who had brought her in a Mercedes-Benz would come and take her away again. And yet the months went by and this didn’t happen. Irina did no more than observe Alma Belasco from a distance, because Hans Voigt had instructed her to focus on people from the second and third levels, and not to get distracted by the independents. Besides, Irina had more than enough to do in looking after her own clients—they were not to be called patients—and learning the ins and outs of her new job. As part of her training, she had to study the videos of recent funerals: a Buddhist Jewish woman and a repentant agnostic. For her part, Alma Belasco would not have paid any attention to Irina if circumstances had not briefly turned the young woman into the most noteworthy member of the community.

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    Meet the Author

    Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of a number of bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including The House of the Spirits, Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and My Invented Country. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages and have sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. She lives in California. Her website is IsabelAllende.com.

    Brief Biography

    Hometown:
    San Rafael, California
    Date of Birth:
    August 2, 1942
    Place of Birth:
    Lima, Peru
    Website:
    http://www.isabelallende.com

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    The Japanese Lover 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Allende at her best. A beautiful tapestry of interwoven characters that span generations and continents. Perhaps my favorite of all her books. Highly recommend it.
    Anonymous 9 months ago
    She writes very well. However it just flipped back and forth between story lines and really felt it was about Irena more than Alma. Had trouble holding my attention because it dragged on in spots and halfway through I could pretty much figure out how it would end and honestly couldn't wait to be done with it. It's neither the best nor the worst book I've read, I really expected more of a love story after reading heavier material and after reading the previous reviews was hoping for some much more since the premise seemed encouragin
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    One of the most beautiful and touching books I've read in years.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Allende is a gifted storyteller. Highly recommend this book!
    Anonymous 29 days ago
    Just because Allende wrote it doesn't mean it is good. The stilted dialogue was painful. The story did not just vascillate between past and present, it was simply disorganized. And the love story? I guess it was okay if you think a bunch of adjectives makes a love story. Don't bother with this book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Great book. Interesting story, well written. Great writing & the story. and
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This was a fabulous and smart read. I highly recommend it. My favorite of Allende's books. Just beautiful and touching.
    Under_The_Covers_BookBlog More than 1 year ago
    Reviewed by Francesca and posted at Under The Covers Book Blog THE JAPANESE LOVER is a beautiful life story about two women. One at the end of her complicated life, and one at a crossroads in the middle where she has to overcome her past. Alma Belasco, originally from Polland, came to live with her aunt and uncle in the US when she was a little girl. They gave her a lavish life catering to her every whim, raising her in a society where she never has to want for anything. During her childhood, she becomes best friends with a Japanese boy. Although life tears them apart, that friendship marks her life and throughout the years, as their relationship changes, becomes the biggest part of who she is. Friendship turns into love, turns into loss and pain. We meet Alma when she’s an old woman living in a retirement home. Her only companions? Her grandson Seth and one of the caretakers at the home, Irina. The second woman we get to meet in this book and whose life becomes forever changed by this story. She’s young and down on her luck, having a past that tortures her every day. But it’s Alma and her story, and eventually Seth and his love, that make a big difference for Irina. This is a beautifully heartbreaking story about life, love and mistakes. Love had, love lost. Love that can withstand the test of time. Love that can help heal. But also centers around prejudice and how it can break someone and get in the way of happiness. Although this story is a bit understated, and it starts off slower than I would’ve liked, by the time it gets going you can’t help but get lost in these characters and want to know more. I felt like a little kid waiting for grandma to tell the story of her life. Her adventures. The format in which it’s told going back and forth between past and present, was perfect to show the reader how they got here. And the ending is bittersweet. This is definitely a book that surprised me by making me shed a tear on more than one occasion because the writing was so subdued, the emotions snuck up on me. As much as I enjoyed this book a lot, I have to admit I couldn’t help but compare it to her other work and see it fall short of my expectations. Isabel Allende is legendary in her writing and I can’t quite see this as being up there with her classics. However, if you go into it with a clear mind or if this is your first foray into her writing, I believe you won’t be disappointed with this story full of depth.
    nic121 12 months ago
    Such a joy to read. Allende's writing is magic and fantastical, touching and absolutely beautiful.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    toniFMAMTC More than 1 year ago
    This is an epic love story, but really it touches on lots of heavy subjects. It starts right before WWII, and ends in the current decade. Many major events between those times are highlighted: Jewish people fleeing their home countries, Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, war, Japanese Americans being in camps, prejudice between different races, homosexuality, AIDS, sex trafficking, and more. All of these things happen in the lives of the main couple or someone close to them. There are several emotional parts. I didn’t break down crying, but so many things touched my heart. I definitely recommend it.
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I read this book in one day. I was captured by the love story of Alma and Ichi. Very moving. I have to agree with another reviewer about the character of Irina in the story line. I found her character distracting from the main story of Alma, Ichi and the Balasco family. Isabel Allende's book are wonderful to read.
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    Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
    I loved this story, the end is just beautiful. I strongly recommend this book, kept me interested all the way to the end.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago