Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover, a decades-spanning saga of passion and history

Themes of lasting passion, friendship, reflections in old age, and how people react to challenging circumstances all feature in Allende’s newest saga, which moves from modern San Francisco back to the traumatic WWII years. As always, her lively storytelling pulls readers into her characters’ lives immediately.

Irina Bazili, personal assistant to elderly designer Alma Belasco, suspects her employer has a lover. What else would explain her secretive excursions from her nursing home and the mysterious yellow envelopes arriving in Alma’s mail?

Intervening sections reveal the lifelong bond between Alma, a Polish Jewish refugee sent to live with California relatives in 1939, and Ichimei Fukuda, sensitive youngest son of her family’s gardener. Despite many separations over the years, their love remains strong.

Descriptions of the Fukudas’ forced internment at a Utah camp, where life continues behind barbed wire, create a memorable impression. Equally haunting is Irina’s painful backstory, which skillfully unfolds. Although not as complex or richly detailed as Allende’s earlier novels, the story has many heartfelt moments, and readers will be lining up for it.

The Japanese Lover is published today by Atria/Simon & Schuster ($28, hardcover, 321pp, or $24.99 ebook).  This review first appeared in Booklist's October 1st issue, in the High Demand section. The novel is is the top pick on the LibraryReads list for November.


  1. Hi Sarah,
    What are some of your favorite books that you have read?
    Thanks, TIffany

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      Most recently, some books I've really enjoyed (in addition to the ones I've reviewed here so far) are Kate Morton's The Lake House and Sara Donati's The Gilded Hour. Both highly recommended!