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The Japanese Lover

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  52,658 ratings  ·  5,988 reviews
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 beg ...more
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Atria Books (first published May 2015)
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Jan You're not alone!! I loved Daughter of Fortune and House of Spirits, but was very disappointed in this one and agree with all that you said. The…moreYou're not alone!! I loved Daughter of Fortune and House of Spirits, but was very disappointed in this one and agree with all that you said. The choppy story-telling didn't seem to add much, and there was way too much exposition and preaching. I wasn't moved by the love story or by Alma as a character once we got past her childhood, and actually rolled my eyes at some of the flowery language Allende used in describing Alma and Ichi's "great love." I sure hope this isn't going to be Allende's last novel. I almost wonder if it was something she'd written or outlined years ago and decided to publish now. (less)
Natalie I loved Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet but did not like this one much at all. I thought it had too many smaller, unrelated plots (such as…moreI loved Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet but did not like this one much at all. I thought it had too many smaller, unrelated plots (such as child pornography and the AIDS epidemic of the 80"s) and the characters just floated through life without much depth. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  52,658 ratings  ·  5,988 reviews


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Brina
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with Isabel Allende's writing when I was in high school. I still remember the first sentence of the first book I ever read of her's: "Barrabas came to us by sea". At the time Allende wrote sweeping historical novels that predominately took place in her native land Chile. Yet, her writing style changed in the many years she has been in the United States, branching out to write crime novels and even some books geared toward young adults. The passion she wrote with in books like Hous ...more
Angela M
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars .
At its core , this is a love story that spans decades, but it is about so much more . It's about surviving, about aging, about forbidden love , about the depth of caring and friendship that allows loved ones to seek their own happiness without reproach . Jews fleeing the Nazi occupation of Poland, the war, Japanese internment camps in the United States are part of the unfolding story of an elderly woman coming to terms with and reliving her past . But in the present she is instr
...more
Julie Christine
Oh, I haven't so agonized over a review in such a long time.

Here's the thing. There is a part of me that wondered, "If this wasn't Isabel Allende, would this book ever have been published?" It's pages and pages and pages of exposition. A held-at-arm's-distance recitation of characters' histories, loves, lives, and losses, interspersed with patinated scenes of an assisted living center for geriatric WASP hippies in the woods a comfortable, but convenient, distance from San Francisco. There's lit
...more
Nan Williams
Dec 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: no-more
Was this novel really written by the same woman who thrilled me with "Island beneath the Sea," "Zorro," "Portrait in Sepia," "Daughter of Fortune," "House of the Spirits?"
Somehow I find that hard to believe.

Rather than putting her "beautifully drawn characters" into history, the book just throws every societal ill of the last 75 years at the reader. It reads like the writer was handed a catalog of things which must be included. First we start with the Nazi invasion of Poland and sub
...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Imagine for a moment ......being 8 years old.
My 8 year old memory includes loss. My father and both grandparents were no longer living.
That 8 year old memory includes loss of the new custom home my parents built that we were about to move in a week before he died....then a week later a major flood & mud slide destroyed every house ( all new developments)...'except' ours. However, my mother backed out...and never moved us into that new home.
I remember feelings of fear when we first moved i
...more
Ann
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Interesting story idea, but too many disjointed and melodramatic plot lines, too much telling vs. showing, and totally lacking in the lyrical prose of some of her earlier books. This one felt formulaic and thrown together.
Esil
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
When I started reading Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover, I liked it well enough but I wasn't feeling anything special. I think I was suffering a bit from the high expectations that come with reading a book by Allende. But as I got deeper into it, I found myself really drawn in by the story and characters. It doesn't have the intense richness of The House of Spirits or some of Allende's other books set in Latin America, but Allende's particular ability to weave characters and their stories and ...more
Karen
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It's about friendship, love, and aging with many touching relationships.

(I also learned about how the Japenese Americans were sent away to interment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I had never known this happened).
Jen
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Anyone who has read Allende recognizes her talent for narratives that transcend time, love and cultures across generations.

In this novel, there are two stories entwined: one of eternal love told by Alma, an 80 year old woman as she reflects back on her life to her assistant Irina, from the walls of her retirement room; and Irina's own difficult, sad life journey. Themes of friendship, loss, family, love and forgiveness abound.

I've read some harsh reviews and perhaps I didn't feel the sam
...more
Candi
3 stars

"We are all born happy. Life gets us dirty along the way, but we can clean it up. Happiness is not exuberant or noisy, like pleasure or joy; it's silent, tranquil, and gentle; it's a feeling of satisfaction inside that begins with self-love."

Alma Belasco knows that happiness is not an easy achievement. After years of learning and growing and forgiving herself for choices she has made, the aging Alma knows a thing or two about living life and feeling fulfilled. Separated from her parents d/>"We
...more
*TANYA*
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very good book. A story told throughout several decades. And some stories told were "gasp" worthy.
Phrynne
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
Contrary to just about everybody else, I enjoyed this book more than I did The House of the Spirits. I was fascinated by the information about the Japanese internment camps and was equally intrigued by life, as this author sees it anyway, in a retirement home.

The story bounced around in time, backwards and forwards, but Allende is a skilful writer and I was always able to keep up. She also uses a deceitful little trick at the end, aided and abetted by her main character, which confuses everyone about t
...more
Diane S ☔
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 After overcoming my initial reaction that this novel would not have the depth which Allende was noted for in her earlier novels (and it did not)I realized that this was a very good story. It touched on some very important historical events: the Nazis, the attack on Pearl harbor and its resulting Japanese interment camps, cultural differences and expectations, aids and homosexuality as well as child pornography and sexual abuse. I did, however, have a problem with Ada throughout much of this ...more
Michael
From reading the book blurb, I was wary that this novel would be emotionally overwrought. :
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..

I found it to be one of those big-hearted tales that pluck your heartstrings while you root for the main characters to find the love of others that they deserve. It wasn’t quite sappy, but came close. We watch a friendship d
...more
Connie G
Alma Belasco, now an octogenarian living in a retirement residence, is telling the story of her life to her grandson Seth and her immigrant care worker Irina. Alma met Ichimei Fukuda, the son of her family's Japanese gardener, when they were children. Their instant connection eventually turned into a lifelong love affair which is recounted through letters and flashbacks. The Fukuda family was sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, and lived under terrible conditio ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Omg, 'The Japanese Lover' is such an emotionally flat read! The title is the only grouping of words with a hint of a living heartbeat for what seemed to me like thousands of pages. However, unlike 'Ripper', which Isabel Allende also wrote, this book is coherent.

Reader, if gelded literary reads are the kind of books which you recommend to your book club because it helped you pass the hours between arranging the flowers into a delicate expression of beauty and checking the work of the
...more
Cathrine ☯️
3☆
“Why do you ask, Aunt Lillian?”
”Because...marriage without passion is like food without salt.”


Such was the issue for me with this one. It was like a well prepared meal without salt. Or perhaps, not the seasoning I prefer. I kept putting my fork down after each bite to sip my wine only to experience a disconnect. I was hoping for a nice dessert at the end that made it worthwhile. Instead I had more wine. A Dianthus Rosé from Tablas Creek. That put a smile on my face.

Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: In Lark House, where there was a depressing majority of women, Jacques Devine was considered the star attraction,the only heart-throb among the twenty-eight male residents. He was known as Frenchie, not because he had been born in France, but because of his exquisite manners - he held the doors open for the ladies, pulled their chairsback for them, and never went around with his fly unzipped - and because he could dance, despite his fossilized spine. At the age of ninety he walked with ...more
Brenda
At a very young age, Alma Mendel’s family was torn apart – first her beloved brother Samuel was shipped off overseas then not too much later, her parents informed Alma that she would be journeying from her home in Poland to San Francisco to live with an Aunt and Uncle she had never met. It was 1939 and the Mendels wanted their children to be safe – they were determined to stay in Poland themselves but have their children returned to them after the war…

Alma’s journey to her new life t
...more
Elaine
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What I really like about Isabel Allende is her ability to create families that, despite their quirks and off the wall characters, are so well drawn that they feel real and she has done it again here with the Bellasco family. By the end of the read I almost felt as if I too was a part of this dynasty.

The story is mostly set in a San Fransisco Bay area residential complex for the elderly. I loved this setting – an old people’s complex with a clientele drawn from the hippie generation. These peopl
...more
DeB MaRtEnS
A quiet, contemplative book... A look at the life of Alma Mendel, sent as a child to live with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco. Her Jewish parents are never able to find their way to her from their native Poland, victims of Nazi atrocities. Isaac and Lillian Blasco, her relatives, whose wealth increases with no diminishing of their innate kindness..., their grandson, Nathaniel, beloved and steady, loyal....Ichimei Fukuda, gardener's son, Japanese internee, dreamer. Seth, Alma's grandson, a m ...more
Rebecca
(3.5) Allende is a wonderful storyteller. This isn’t up to the level of her South American novels (e.g. The House of the Spirits), and in elaborating both Alma’s and Irina’s stories there’s a bit too much telling rather than showing, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book all the same – I devoured it in just a few days. Allende is sensitive to both the process of aging and the various strategies for dealing with traumatic events from the past. If you’re interested in exploring the internment of America’s Japanese during World Wa ...more
Ron Charles
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
At 73, Isabel Allende is finally old enough to write about retirement with some personal authority, but there’s nothing retiring about her treatment of the twilight years. Although her new novel takes place in what we used to call an old folks’ home, “The Japanese Lover” is animated by the same lush spirit that has sold 65 million copies of her books around the world. While brushing aside the dismal expectations and hoary jokes about elderly people, she captures the real complexity and abiding p ...more
da AL
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So sad. Allende is one of my favorite authors, which is why this audiobook is especially disappointing. It reads more like a first or second draft, needs another run through to give depth to characters, storylines, scenery, and to purge it of heaps of trite phrasing. Despite all that, the book is worth a read. Unforgivable was the choice of audiobook narrator. It's a wonder I have teeth left after all the grinding I did of them amid her lackluster reading, mispronounced Spanish words, and inappr ...more
Myrna
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-ebook
Isabel Allende is such a skilled storyteller. This novel is full of surprises, slow disclosures, and containes loveable flawed characters. It also has some interesting yet sad historical pieces like the treatment of the Japenese on the west coast during WWII.

The Japanese Lover is my first Allende book. I hear her other books are even better so this won't my last.

This was a buddy read with my friend Nita. It was fun discussing the book with her.
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have long loved the poetic voice of Isabel Allende’s novels. A few of her recent novels left me not quite satisfied so I was very anxious to read The Japanese lover. In this book I feel as though she has returned to her very strong characters, with complicated but fully developed background history for all, not only the major players but some of the minor ones as well.

The book is about loving, giv
...more
Jamise // Spines & Vines
I was looking forward to starting 2016 with my first book by Isabel Allende. Unfortunately I'm disappointed as this book turned out to be quite blah. As a reader, it was easy to fall in sync with the pace of the story but I never became invested (or cared) about any of the characters. The story remained flat with only a few elements that sparked my interest very late in the book. Will I read another novel by this author? Absolutely! The House of The Spirits comes highly recommended.

Bam cooks the books ;-)
I was very excited to win an advance reader's edition of Isabel Allende's new book in a goodreads first-reads giveaway. She has been a favorite author of mine since reading The House of the Spirits, my first venture into the genre of magical realism.

The Japanese Lover is historical fiction but more importantly a love story--a love that is hindered by society's prej
...more
Camie
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Allende's sweeping tale of forbidden love and loss, is really two stories. Alma is sent from Poland to live safely in San Francisco with her relatives in 1938 when Natzi threats lead the world into war. Decades later Irina, a young Moldavian care worker, fleeing a devastating past of her own , begins working at the eccentric care center called Lark house where the elderly Alma now resides. It's here that their paths meet and where they will both share their histories some of which ( Alma's) span ...more
Maddy
Oct 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
Massively disappointing, especially for all the hype.

The reader is kept at an arm's length, so that, although many personal secrets and tragedies are continuously presented, there is no language that creates an emotional connection between reader and character.

Also written like the author researched historical and contemporary cultural touchstones, then used them like name-dropping. Didn't feel like the narrator had any personal interest in these events beyond an anthropo
...more
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18,098 followers
Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at s ...more
“Todos nacemos felices. Por el camino se nos ensucia la vida, pero podemos limpiarla. La felicidad no es exuberante ni bulliciosa, como el placer o la alegría. Es silenciosa, tranquila, suave, es un estado interno de satisfacción que empieza por amarse a sí mismo.” 40 likes
“You only have one life, but if you live it well, that’s enough. The only reality is now, today. What are you waiting for to be happy?” 36 likes
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