The Japanese Lover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: November 2015
Duration: 9 hours 8 minutes
Written in Isabel Allende’s trademark style, The Japanese Lover is a lyrical historical saga about two women: the young Irina Bazili and the elder Alma Belasco. The impoverished and reserved Irina meets Alma at a nursing home in California. Proving herself to be upstanding and trustworthy, she soon wins the respect and admiration of all those at Lark House, where Alma resides. But there is something in Irina’s past which she refuses to confront. Her murky, clandestine history prevents her from living a full and happy life—namely when she meets Alma’s grandson, Seth, who immediately falls in love with the devoted Irina. As the pair begin to investigate a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, they form a close friendship and discover the existence of Alma’s secret Japanese lover, whose relationship with Alma goes far back into the days of her youth.
Born in Poland to a wealthy Jewish family, Alma grew up under the shadow of the Nazi’s rise to power. In an attempt to protect her from the horrors of war, Alma’s parents send her to live with an aunt in California. They are killed shortly after, leaving the young Alma forlorn and devastated in a completely new environment. Her life is quickly changed, however, when she meets the son of her aunt’s gardener, Ichimei Fukuda. Young love blossoms between them, but they are suddenly separated when Ichimei and his family are relocated to a Japanese internment camp. Throughout their lifetimes, they manage to reunite and rekindle their love affair, sharing a long and passionate romance. But theirs is a love they are forever forced to hide from the prejudiced eyes of the world.
Spanning back and forth between present day San Francisco and Alma’s eventful—and often painful—past in WWII-era Poland, The Japanese Lover is a tender multi-generational story, replete with charming, deeply human characters and heartbreaking tales of love. Woven into an intricately written and gripping plot, Allende captures both the horrors of humanity and the beauty of good deeds.