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 70 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.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Earnest on 26-03-16
Curiously similar and yet dissimilar to Ms Allende's previous work
A long time passionate admirer of this Author's work, I was at first puzzled at the style of this novel at the beginning and also not very enthusiastic with the mode of oral delivery. I hesitated. But now, I am glad I persisted. Although there is a lot of historically important detail, I felt, "crammed in " unnecessarily, I came to see that there may be a new generation of listeners to whom these momentous events are unknown and it needs retelling. From the Balkans to Japan, the U.SA., forgiveness and love have to be fore grounded, always.
This is where the similarities with the earlier, "magical realism" novels are the strongest. Perhaps Age is a character in this novel and it helps the listener to understand and share.
It reminded me of Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout's work-fine company to be in.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Karen O'Byrne on 11-11-15
My first negative review
I have listened to hundreds of Audible titles and have had very few disappointments. Or at least I should say that I've had some less than good experiences but perhaps those were expected. So that is why I feel impelled to write this review. I had high expectations for this book that just were not met.
The book deals with huge themes - the Nazi extermination of Jews, the internment of Japanese in America during WW2, child pornography. And other themes. But I found myself detached, my mind wandered as I listened. Why? Because I could not empathize with Alma the protagonist and supposedly the touchstone for the rest of the characters in the book. Yes, she suffered a tremendous blow as a child when she was separated from her parents but she went on to live a privileged and self-absorbed life. Even the love affair with the Japanese lover was unconvincing and lacked passion. Nothing she had done could or should have invoked such enduring devotion from him. The devotion showed to her by the other characters therefore suffered the same lack of credibility and empathy. The narrator also disappointed. She had a fairly flat affectless delivery. All in all a very disappointing listen.
46 of 49 people found this review helpful
By Patricia on 16-11-15
Oh Isabel...What happened?
Would you try another book from Isabel Allende and/or Joanna Gleason?
I would try another book by Isabel just because I respect her previous writings so much - will never purchase a book read by Joanna Gleason. I am halfway through this book and it is the first time in a long while that I am forcing myself to listen to the end. Her narration is horrible, no modulation, no change in character's voices (when they do speak). Very, very amateur.
Any additional comments?
None of the characters are of any interest to me since they are written so poorly. I am sure in better hands the story would come alive and we could root for them but, as is, the story is plodding. I was so looking forward to reading this latest novel of Ms. Allende knowing how beautifully and movingly she can write. Not sure what happened with this one but it needed major revisions.
35 of 38 people found this review helpful