The Japanese Lover

images.jpgIsabel 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?

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An unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort

MauriceWhen Maurice reaches a low point in his life he consults the now retired family doctor. Maurice at first tells the doctor he has a problem with women, but after the doctor responds to everything from unwanted pregnancy to impotence, Maurice admits to being “an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.” The doctor responds, “Rubbish.” How often do you hear science defined by literature?

But the doctor’s response was indicative of the times:

Dr. Barry had given the best advice he could. He had read no scientific works on Maurice’s subject. None had existed when he walked the hospitals, and any published since were in German, and therefore suspect. Adverse to it by temperament, he endorsed the verdict of society gladly; that is to say, his verdict was theological. He held that only the most depraved could glance at Sodom, and so, when a man of good antecedents and physique confessed the tendency, “Rubbish, rubbish!” was his natural reply. He was quite sincere. He believed that Maurice had heard some remark by chance, which had generated morbid thoughts, and that the contemptuous silence of a medical man would at once deplete them.

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