The Japanese Lover

Title: The Japanese Lover
Author: Isabel Allende
Translated from Spanish by: Nick Caistor & Amanda Hopkinson
Published: November 2015
322 pages

Let's welcome Isabel Allende's latest fiction, The Japanese Lover. A story about two fascinating women with their dreadful experiences and everlasting dreams. 

The story takes place at a nursing home in San Francisco. Irina Brazili, a 23-year-old immigrant from Eastern Europe, inexperienced but delightful to have the job in managing the retired folks. Irina's favorite resident is an elegant woman named Alma Belasco, who has recently come to Lark House under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Alma always drives her tinny car by herself. She completely ignores all traffic regulations. Where does she go? Who is sending her those letters and bouquet??? 

Alma was originally from Polland. In 1939 when Polland fell under the shadow of the Nazis and the world went to war, young Alma was sent by her parents to live with her aunt and uncle in US. During her childhood, she became best friend with a Japanese boy, Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossomed. 

As usual Allende is a master storyteller in mixing a romance with historical background. This time she delivers a romantic love that endures throughout lifetimes. Showing that friendship and love can become more profound from a distance. 

Get ready to move back and forth from present to past and vice versa in order to get deep insight about key characters and the layers of experience that make each of them who he or she is. 

At 73, Isabel Allende is still fascinating. I love most of her characters in the books and also the plot that she created. When President Obama presented Allende with the Medal of Freedom last year, he put it well: "Her novels and memoirs tell of families, magic, romance, oppression, violence, redemption--all the big stuff. But in her hands, the big became graspable and familiar and human."