Isabel Allende's latest novel is a beautifully crafted story of a woman who has lived a surprising duel life. Alma Belasco is a wealthy woman from a much loved, well-respected and charitable family, who in her old age resides at Lark House, an unusual but charming and thoroughly progressive nursing home. As Alma attempts to matchmake Irina, a careworker at Lark House, with her wealthy but socially progressive son Seth, the pair slowly learn more about Alma and a mysterious but beautiful secret from her past. From there the author weaves seemlessly between the past and the present to tell the story of Alma's life, of her arrival in the United States before the onset of the second world war, to the events that would lead to her duel life--her role as a wife and mother with a man who can provide for her, but who feels no passion for her, and her affair with a man who can give her the love and passion that she needs.
Allende is, as always, an author who can deliver a detailed and sympathetic account of the lives of her characters. Life can sometimes be tough--and unfair--to those who come from other countries to America and Allende does not shy away from describing the problems that her characters experience--Alma who finds herself without her parents and brother, Ichimei and his family who find themselves as innocent victims of the times and Irina who is cruelly exploited by the people who are supposed to care for her the most. (And whose mother, I might add, proves herself to be a true hypocrite.) A haunting twist at the end (did Irina see what she wanted to, or was there something deeper at work,) makes The Japanese Lover memorable.
Beautiful, and sympathetically told. Recommended.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my Advanced Reading Copy.