The Japanese Lover – Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover is the second novel I read by Isabel Allende, after Of Love and Shadows. To be clear, I loved The Japanese Lover compared to the first book I read. However, serious Allende readers did not like this book very much. I think I prefer the more recent Allende over the traditional Allende. This book didn’t shatter me like Love and Shadow, but it taught me a lot. Well, of course, it increased my love for Japan, which is already too much.


The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

In The Japanese Lover, there are the stories of Alma, who escaped from the Nazi occupation in Poland and was sent to America to her relatives; Ichimei, who has a green thumb; Irina, who kept a massive secret in her past; and Seth, who fell in love with Irına while investigating the past of his grandmother Alma. Through these people whose lives are interconnected, you will look at war, the suffering of innocent people in war, old age, how time swallowed everything and an unprecedented love. The Japanese Lover is a novel that embellishes different stories into each other; You will never be bored while reading. Enjoy!

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover From New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover is “a magical and sweeping” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) love story and multigenerational epic that stretches from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during World War II.

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 is written with the same keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the SpiritsThe Japanese Lover is a moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

‘[Allende’s] stories are delicate, their images akin to poetry … And, like poetry, this prose requires careful attention’ Barbara Kingsolver

‘A passionate storyteller … holds the world spellbound with her tales. She is Latin America’s, the world’s Scheherazade. Her writing is lyrical, mystical, ribald, funny’ Miami Herald

‘Allende’s writing is so inventive, funny, and persuasive … Her characters are fascinatingly detailed and human. The Japanese Lover’ People

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean journalist and author born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru. Her best-known works include the novels The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. She has written over 20 books that have been translated into more than 35 languages and sold more than 67 million copies.

Isabel Allende was born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru, to Tomás and Francisca Allende. She is the goddaughter of Salvador Allende, the first socialist president of Chile who was her father’s cousin. Her father, a diplomat, deserted the family when Allende was just two. She, her siblings and mother then moved in with her grandfather in Chile. Allende remembers herself as a rebellious child during those years living with her grandfather.

“We lived in an affluent house – with no money,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph. “My grandfather would pay for what was necessary but my mother did not even have the cash to buy us an ice cream. I wanted to be like my grandfather because my mother had a terrible life and he had all the privileges and the power and the freedom and the car – I think that was the moment I started to rebel against all male authority: the police, the church, everything.”

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

Her mother remarried to Ramón Huidobro, also a diplomat, and the family moved often as his posts changed. Allende said she was determined to work as a young woman and started her writing career as a journalist. She became a prominent journalist working in television and for magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

Allende’s life was forever changed when General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup in 1973, toppling Salvador Allende’s government. During an attack on the presidential palace Salvador Allende was shot and killed. (After decades of controversy surrounding the cause of his death, an autopsy confirmed in 2011 that it was a suicide.) Isabel Allende became active in aiding victims of the repression and brutality of Pinochet’s regime, but realizing it was dangerous to stay in Chile, she fled the country with her husband and two children in 1975 and lived in exile in Venezuela for 13 years.

In 1981, Allende began writing a letter to her grandfather, who was dying in Chile. The letter became the basis for her first novel, The House of the Spirits (1985), which became a worldwide bestseller and launched her literary career. The novel tells the story of two families living in Chile from the 1920s until the 1973 military coup, weaving together elements of magical realism and political testimony. Some of her works include Of Love and Shadows (1987), Eva Luna (1987), Two Words (1989), The Infinite Plan (1991), Daughter of Fortune (1999), Portrait in Sepia (2000), Zorro (2005), Ines of My Soul (2006), Island Beneath the Sea (2010), Maya’s Notebook (2011), Ripper (2014) and The Japanese Lover (2015).

At the urging of her three grandchildren, Allende wrote her first book for young adults, City of the Beasts, which was published in 2002. It was the first book in a trilogy for young readers, which also included Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2003) and Forest of the Pygmies (2005).

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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