The Japanese Lover

Isabel Allende is a fairly new author for me. I have been collecting her books in both paper and electronic versions for some time but just haven’t gotten around to reading them. This last month I decided to jump right in with the author’s newest novel, The Japanese Lover. I’ll admit that the title reminded me of Marguerite Duras whom I greatly admire. As might be expected, the two authors are quite different.

Now I didn’t expect Allende to be writing the nouveau roman, maybe a liltle magic realism, but I found her novel somewhat pedestrian and I definitely felt she jammed too many themes into the book without every really fulfilling any of the promise. Is it a love story? A story about a war orphan? Concentration camps? Rich people? Poor people? Old people? the Japanese internment? the war? a botany primer? San Francisco society? homosexuals? Child pornography? Overcoming the past? Imagining a future? Dog walking?


The most poignant theme—the love story between the rich adopted war orphan and the Japanese gardener—is central to the novel but I had a sense that the emotions it elicited came more to me from recalling similar treatments in other books or films than it did from the narrative of this book.

This is not to say the The Japanese Lover is not a good book, just that it doesn’t score too high on its literary value. I intend to read a few more novels by Isabel Allende before I pass my final, highly-biased, judgment.

Here is the bibliography from Wikipedia for the Chilean-American author, Isabel Allende:



The House of the Spirits (1982) La casa de los espíritus
The Porcelain Fat Lady (1984) La gorda de porcelana
Of Love and Shadows (1985) De amor y de sombra
Eva Luna (1987) Eva Luna
Two Words (1989) Dos Palabras
The Stories of Eva Luna (1989) Cuentos de Eva Luna
The Infinite Plan (1991) El plan infinito
Daughter of Fortune (1999) Hija de la fortuna
Portrait in Sepia (2000) Retrato en sepia
City of the Beasts (2002) La ciudad de las bestias
Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) El reino del dragón de oro
Zorro (2005) El Zorro: Comienza la leyenda
Forest of the Pygmies (2005) El bosque de los pigmeos
Ines of My Soul (2006) Inés del alma mía
Island Beneath the Sea (2010) La isla bajo el mar
Maya’s Notebook (2011) El Cuaderno de Maya
Ripper (2014) El juego de Ripper
The Japanese Lover (2015) El amante japonés


Paula (1994) Paula
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998) Afrodita
My Invented Country: A Memoir (2003) Mi país inventado
The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir (2008) La suma de los días

One thought on “The Japanese Lover

  1. One of my favourite novels is House of Spirits and Eva Luna is on my list to read as well. I’ve seen quite a few reviews of The Japanese Lover and the general consensus seems to be that it’s not her best. I enjoyed your review.


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