Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Japanese Lover - My 1st Isabel Allende

My good friend, Diane, highly recommended The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende.  I decided to read it for 2 reasons:  1)  Because Diane recommended it; and 2) Because Isabel lives in Northern California (Marin County), and I always shamelessly hope to convince a local author to come to an RBC meeting.  It's unlikely, but it did work with Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I'm just sayin'...  And in one sentence, I will tell you what the book is about:  The 70-year love affair of a man and woman who could not, for societal and cultural reasons, ever publicly be together.

So now that I've given you the reasons why I read it, what did I think about my 1st Allende?  The short answer is that I liked it.  I gave it a 3/4. I would have rated it a little higher except there were a couple of things that bothered me a bit.  Let me first list the stuff that I liked.

1.  It's extremely well-written.  It's literary, but still very readable.
2.  I like that much of the story takes place in a retirement community, and that one of the main protagonists is in her early 80s.  I will concede that this could have something to do with my advancing age!
3.  Piggybacking onto #2, there is an 8-page explanation (60-67) of what it's like to grow old.  I really appreciated how this particular character described it.  In fact, I would even say that this is a takeaway for me.
4.  I like how the author gives a detailed explanation of the Japanese internment camps during WWII.  Of course I've seen it before in literature (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet comes 1st to mind), but this is in greater detail.  As heinous as it actually was, and as much head-shaking as I did while reading it, I still appreciated learning more about this significant piece of American history.
5.  I definitely had my share of chills and tears, with a little laughter thrown in.  I did make the emotional connection to the characters.
6.  I always like books where there are personal letters from the past involved (e.g. Goodnight June and Letters from Paris).

What did I have an issue with?
1.  Those personal letters jump around in timeframe.  It was a little confusing for me (could it be me?  Nah.  Maybe?)
2.  There is a character that is referred to several times throughout the book.  But he gets a big part near the end, from 45 years earlier, that was distracting for me.
3.  I thought there were quite a few paragraphs that ran on too long. Don't get me wrong; they were well-written, and I wasn't bored.  But I have a hard time maintaining focus when I see a long paragraph.  I have to admit that this one is on me.

My objections to the book probably only accounted for maybe a 1/4 point in the rating.  Not a big deal.  It's still very worthwhile reading.   And for you literati, you will probably appreciate it a tad more than I did.


  1. I know so many people who love her work. I've got a few of her books and need to make the time to read one.

    1. One person told me that this is a little bit different from her other works. I will not necessarily rush out and read another one. But I wouldn't mind, either.