Title: The Japanese Lover
Author: Isabel Allende
Start Date: September 1, 2015
Finished: September 7, 2015
✧ ✧ ✧ ✧ /5
I won a copy of The Japanese Lover through Goodreads giveway, and this is my first time reading one of Isabel Allende’s work. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her writing so I was excited to dive right into this. Let me just start off by emphasizing how much I enjoyed this book. At first I was a little wary of coming across stereotypical aspects of Asians or Asian culture (I’m looking at you Rainbow Rowell and your atrociously racist representation of Park in Eleanor & Park. For a hilarious review of a terrible book, check out Angry Girl Comic’s thoughts on it here), but I was so relieved when I found none.
So what is The Japanese Lover about? Alma Belasco is sent to San Francisco to live a life of luxury and safety at her aunt and uncle’s mansion during the second World War. It is here where she meets a young Ichimei Fukuda, her relative’s gardener’s son. Alas, their friendship and romance are thrust into jeopardy as Ichimei is sent to an internment camp with his family. From then on, they reunite on and off. Fast forward to present day where Irina Bazili, a new care worker who begins working at Lark House nursing home, comes across the now elderly Alma. Together with Alma’s grandson, Seth, they try to uncover what really happened with Ichimei, and they attempt to piece together the secretive relationship between the two.
Note: This review contains no spoilers.
There are many translated works I’ve come across that reads choppy or that has lost the beautiful and poetic feel of its original language, and The Japanese Lover is one of those rare cases where everything about it is wonderful; everything from the writing, the translation, the characterization, and the plot was done perfectly. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt like I was reading a translated version of the book. Despite that, I have to shower praises upon Allende for creating such beautiful prose and captivating her readers with her story-telling. I was drawn immediately to Alma’s life and I held onto every word, speeding through to find out what happens next. Allende has a way of tightly grasping your attention so you get sucked into the story, and even when you’re no longer reading the book you’re still left thinking about it like a unrequited lover. I got antsy whenever I put the book down and I couldn’t wait to pick it back up and finish it. At the same time, I also did NOT want to finish it out of fear of it ending too soon.
Allende has a way of writing strong female characters that are rarely seen in most fiction. There isn’t a single one of these women mentioned in the story that are portrayed as weak-willed, feeble, or inept. No one sat around pining for men or waited on their hand and foot to ensure their eternal happiness. These women sought out their own interests and made something of themselves. At the same time, the male characters are respectful and patient. They don’t force themselves on a woman just because they want them SO BADLY. Their relationships are carefully devised so that they don’t jump straight into bed with the first hot guy they see.
I like how each character has their own back story and you grow to root for each of them the more you learn about them. I wish more books has this slow incorporation of characters’ pasts instead of using the information dump method that so many authors seem to be accustomed to these days.
The only complaint I have is more about the look of the pages. There are so many pages where there are long paragraphs with no paragraph breaks. There were a few times where I felt like I was on one page for hours because of this. Give readers a break and make it easy on the eyes for us please! It will make it look less like those 20 paged research paper university students are constantly being forced to read. This still didn’t take away from the story itself though.
I was tearing up by the time I reached the end. I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming as I had an inkling about what was going to happen halfway through, but still when it happened I couldn’t help but feel so sad. All aboard the feels train!
Considering how much I enjoyed reading Adult Fiction and avoided so much of the bullshit you find in YA novels, I feel like I need to take a breather from YA for a while, but then I just started the very raved about Throne of Glass and I’m hoping that will redeem that category for me.
There’s really only one thing left to say: Isabel Allende, you just gained yourself a new fan. Her new novel will be released on November 3, 2015.