As this was my first Isabel Allende novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the synopsis of The Japanese Lover made me somewhat inclined to pick it up as I love an excellent love story and I do enjoy reading historical fiction. What I ended up with mixed feelings regarding the book as a whole.
At the beginning, The Japanese Lover drew me into the story. I loved the setting, and felt connected to Irina. Yet after the first chapter, the book took an unexpected turn and the book sort of became weird after that. Overall, I felt that the story jumped around a great deal, which apparently is common in the authour’s other novels. One disadvantage of this was that we don’t truly become acquainted with Irina or witness much of her relationship with Seth. To be honest, I didn’t buy their relationship as it appeared to be extremely one-sided relationship in my opinion. On the other hand, I did enjoy Alma’s back story in addition to the love story of her and Ichimei which had several incredibly sweet moments. And those flashbacks were probably what drew me back to the book time and time again, as I loved seeing Alma’s journey and how she grew into the person she is in the present day. Against the story of Alma and her complicated relationship with her wealthy relatives, it was also fascinating to glimpse a bit of what life inside a Japanese internment camp was like, and how under such harsh and trying circumstance the people you wouldn’t expect are the ones who are able to rise up and become stronger individuals.
In the last part, while Alma’s story does receive some measure of closure, everything else is left unresolved as the ending of the book was rather abrupt. Nevertheless, the second half of the book was still definitely an improvement over than the majority of the first half. And while I did enjoy the historical aspect of The Japanese Lover and its exploration of class, culture and discrimination in addition as the various touching and heartwarming moments sprinkled throughout the book, the shaky pacing and timing on top of the rough transitions between present day events and the past led me to not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.