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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times and internationally best-selling author Isabel Allende, an exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family - like thousands of other Japanese Americans - are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly 70 years.

Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

©2015 Isabel Allende (P)2015 Simon & Schuster

Featured Article: 10 of the Best Hispanic Authors to Listen to Right Now


This list is in no way exhaustive, but it is a great place to discover—or rediscover—exceptional Hispanic writers, many with extensive back catalogs. It’s gratifying to hear these works in the language in which they were written, with gorgeous renditions en español. And while you’ll have plenty of their work to listen to, we also suggest you learn about the lives of each author. Their stories include struggles as immigrants, expatriates, and refugees.

What listeners say about The Japanese Lover

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My first negative review

I have listened to hundreds of Audible titles and have had very few disappointments. Or at least I should say that I've had some less than good experiences but perhaps those were expected. So that is why I feel impelled to write this review. I had high expectations for this book that just were not met.

The book deals with huge themes - the Nazi extermination of Jews, the internment of Japanese in America during WW2, child pornography. And other themes. But I found myself detached, my mind wandered as I listened. Why? Because I could not empathize with Alma the protagonist and supposedly the touchstone for the rest of the characters in the book. Yes, she suffered a tremendous blow as a child when she was separated from her parents but she went on to live a privileged and self-absorbed life. Even the love affair with the Japanese lover was unconvincing and lacked passion. Nothing she had done could or should have invoked such enduring devotion from him. The devotion showed to her by the other characters therefore suffered the same lack of credibility and empathy. The narrator also disappointed. She had a fairly flat affectless delivery. All in all a very disappointing listen.

60 people found this helpful

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Thoughtful

If you're looking for fast moving action, this isn't the book for you. It's a thoughtful analysis of the theme of loss and love deferred. Each of the characters faces a love they desire but cannot or will not have for whatever reason. But they live fulfilling and thoughtful lives. A treatise on love and the end of life beautifully rendered.

9 people found this helpful

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Oh Isabel...What happened?

Would you try another book from Isabel Allende and/or Joanna Gleason?

I would try another book by Isabel just because I respect her previous writings so much - will never purchase a book read by Joanna Gleason. I am halfway through this book and it is the first time in a long while that I am forcing myself to listen to the end. Her narration is horrible, no modulation, no change in character's voices (when they do speak). Very, very amateur.

Any additional comments?

None of the characters are of any interest to me since they are written so poorly. I am sure in better hands the story would come alive and we could root for them but, as is, the story is plodding. I was so looking forward to reading this latest novel of Ms. Allende knowing how beautifully and movingly she can write. Not sure what happened with this one but it needed major revisions.

44 people found this helpful

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Interesting love story

Amazing love story full of surprises. Allende's great talents brings you back to so many different time lines. Truly amazing.

6 people found this helpful

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As an audiobook ...

I was disappointed. Allende is a great writer. Sadly, the storyteller didn't do it justice.

3 people found this helpful

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❤️ Allende's writing & characters

Even though I am a huge fan Allende's books, this story was quite disjointed. And a bit depressing toward the end. Still though, her characters are memorable & her descriptions lovely. I wouldn't recommend it...

11 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

A very boring story. No heart. Poor character development. Disjointed. Predictable. Glad when it ended.

10 people found this helpful

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Terrible on All Counts

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

This book was not written well at all.

Would you ever listen to anything by Isabel Allende again?

I was not impressed by the author or her storytelling. This story had great potential and big themes, but the writing was so flat. The story is just told, not shown, if that makes sense. There is almost no dialogue, and it just reads like an overly long summary.

How could the performance have been better?

The performance was also flat, with no voices given to characters when there WAS dialogue.

What character would you cut from The Japanese Lover?

I can't even remember her name (that's how unmemorable she is), but the Moldovan girl who is supposed to be important in the story just isn't.

Any additional comments?

I do not recommend this book, at all. I really wanted to like it, and from the synopsis it sounds right up my alley. I love history and peoples' stories, but this book was just terrible on all counts. Poorly written, uninspired narration, and very flat overall.

20 people found this helpful

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Beautiful story of the best humankind offers

And our worst and the realization we can be either depending on which of our sides we feed! Loved this book!

2 people found this helpful

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The Japanese lover

The first book I've read by Isabel Allende; will not be my last. Beautifully written, lovely, moving.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Janet Hughes
  • 05-18-16

Delightfully Allendesque

I have spent a few glorious hours listening to Isabel Allende s excellent new novel.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Earnest
  • 03-26-16

Curiously similar and yet dissimilar to Ms Allende's previous work

A long time passionate admirer of this Author's work, I was at first puzzled at the style of this novel at the beginning and also not very enthusiastic with the mode of oral delivery. I hesitated. But now, I am glad I persisted. Although there is a lot of historically important detail, I felt, "crammed in " unnecessarily, I came to see that there may be a new generation of listeners to whom these momentous events are unknown and it needs retelling. From the Balkans to Japan, the U.SA., forgiveness and love have to be fore grounded, always.
This is where the similarities with the earlier, "magical realism" novels are the strongest. Perhaps Age is a character in this novel and it helps the listener to understand and share.
It reminded me of Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout's work-fine company to be in.

1 person found this helpful

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  • susan aldridge
  • 02-18-16

Beautiful book

Written and translated into English beautifully. Narration perfect. A deeply touching story demonstrating all Allende's skill and understanding of human sensibilities.

1 person found this helpful

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  • HELEN MARY LAWRENCE
  • 11-08-21

Beautiful love story

I loved the narration. Beautifully read. A story of true love which spanned many decades.

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  • Sally Goldman
  • 11-03-21

A wonderful, tender tale.

I loved Long Petal of the Sea, my first Allende read, so looked forward to The Japanese Lover. It did not disappoint. I learned a great deal about the treatment of Japanese citizens during WWII and loved the characters, woven with such tenderness and skill.

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  • TK
  • 09-26-21

A web of war and love and aging

I love how beautifully Allende weaves the stories of the destruction and chasms wrought by war, the identity struggles of humanity, and the broad reflections of so many different types of love. We don't always hear the honest reflections ans expectations of older folks told so clearly. It's an incredible reflection of the 20th Century. Irina's story is powerful as well, and it's the only one I didn't feel was quite completed.

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  • SANDRABARRY
  • 12-02-20

The Queen of storytelling.

I loved this book, as always Isabel never fails to delight me with her enthralling tales.

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  • cati
  • 11-16-20

Such a beautiful story

This book takes you with it on a remarkable path, filled with the unexpected but at the same time with a unique calmness, without hype or drama; assisted by the gentle, seductive voice of the narrator. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Blathnaid Bergin
  • 10-25-20

Exquisite writing

I adored every word of this book and the narration was clear, well paced and evoked the emotions associated with the plot to perfection. Am just about to listen again. I did not want it to end .

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-13-20

Beautiful story

although simply written, engaging and complicated characters.did not want the story to end. I would even recommend this book to teenagers and young adults to appreciate what it means to get old

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  • Robbie
  • 07-20-17

Fabulous

A beautiful story which was beautifully written and beautifully read. I just loved this book

1 person found this helpful

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  • Miss Tanya Heywood
  • 05-20-19

A beautiful love story

Allende is a master storyteller. She weaves tales of quirky characters intertwined by love in a poetic and flowing manner. She includes elements of history and humanity with hints of magic and romanticism. This was a beautiful, beautiful love story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-23-18

Will need to listen again kept falling asleep due to monotone voice.

Will need to listen again kept falling asleep due to monotone voice.
Interesting revelations kept until the end!

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  • jo Casey
  • 11-17-18

lovely nastalgic story

Isabelle Allende is my favorite writer. I believe Ive read everything even her cook book.
This story was very sweet and full of history. The family somehow seemed like my own. The writing draws you in to such an intimate space I felt akin to each and every character.
Everytime I read one of Allendes books theres always some common thread that connects me to the book. My own father died 4 weeks ago. I celebrated his life alone because I live in a separate country from my family. This story melted my heart at times. I adored it. Thanks Isabelle once again.

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  • Julia Lever
  • 01-07-18

My travel companion

This book was delightful.
Isabel Allende never fails to provide a enjoyable experience.
Her understanding of human nature is amazing, and her ability to express it is rare.
I was spellbound.
Julia Lever