Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Japanese Lover

The house stood in a privileged position on top of a promontory between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.  At first light, the thick mist rolling in from the sea like an avalanche of cotton wool often obscured the Golden Gate Bridge altogether, but in the course of the morning it would lift and the elegant red iron structure would gradually emerge against a sky dotted with gulls, so close to the Belasco's garden that it seemed possible to reach out and touch it. The Japanese Lover, Isabel Allende

I once read a couple of chapters of The House of the Spirits and decided Isabel Allende was Not My Cup of Tea. I’m now eating my words because her new novel The Japanese Lover is smart and funny with the kind of assurance in the text that only the best writers have. San Francisco’s Lark House residence for the elderly attracts ‘left-wing intellectuals, oddballs and second-rate artists.' It’s also home to the aloof and aristocratic Alma Belasco, a former silk screen artist who goes to yoga class, wears bright red lipstick and a 'masculine fragrance of bergamot and orange blossom.’ Every week she receives a box of three gardenias from a mysterious donor, she owns a cat called Neko (Japanese for ‘cat’) and every so often she disappears on mysterious visits taking an overnight bag.

When Irina, a kind-hearted young drifter finds a job as a care worker at Lark House she befriends Alma and along with Seth, Alma’s grandson who is besotted with Irina they uncover a love story between the young Alma and the son of a Japanese gardener which spans forty years and encompasses the harrowing treatment of the Japanese in America following Pearl Harbour.

This book has a satisfying story, a warm and witty narrative and a rather beautiful cover. An ideal Christmas present in fact.
Happy Christmas!


Audrey said...

I don't think there's anything nicer than rediscovering an author you didn't especially get on with the first time around! The cover is very appealing!

Sunday Taylor said...

Thank you for this! You are the second person to recommend it. Merry Christmas to you!

Meredith said...

I am just the opposite! I loved The House of Spirits, and found The Japanese Lover so boring I didn't go past 50 pages. Isn't that funny how we can have such different reactions to books by the same author? Perhaps what you didn't like about The House of Spirits was the magical realism...which wasn't at all a part of Japanese Lover as far as I could see.

Penny O'Neill said...

I have had similar relationships with authors. This sounds intriguing to me and will find its way to my wish list. Thank you.

Grad said...

I have had Daughter of Fortune sitting on a shelf for years. I tried to get into it once, but it just didn't appeal to me. I can't remember why. If I see one at the library, I might read a chapter or two. But I have a feeling I just don't like her writing. Merry Christmas!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

I loved The House of Spirits, but have never read any more of Allende's novels. This one sounds terrific!

Cathy Daniel said...

I haven't read any of hers yet, but that extract is so well-written and enticing, that I shall certainly look out for this in the New Year. Speaking of which, have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2016, Nicola! xCathy

Arti said...

Just stop by to wish you a Merry Christmas! Enjoy your holidays and vintage reads! ;)

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, I do like a good cover.

Sunday, it seems to have flown under the radar a little in the UK press, not sure why.

Bellezza, yes strange I wasn't keen on HOS because I quite like magical realism. I read a lot of Louise Erdrich who also employs the technique.

Penny, hope you enjoy it!

Grad, I'm the same with Barbara Kingsolver. Love The Poisonwood Bible but never even finished The Lacuna or Flight Behaviour.

Nadia, highly recommended!

Cathy, same to you and yours!

Arti, thanks! It was lovely to have time off work!

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