Isabel Allende’s ‘The Japanese Lover’ Is A Timeless Tale Of Forbidden Love [REVIEW]

Gardenia Flower

A budding romance is forbidden in Isabel Allende’s THE JAPANESE LOVER. (Photo by Lenora Good, Flickr)

Many of us remember our first true love, the one who helped shape us into the person we are today. In Isabel Allende’s latest novel, The Japanese Lover, she weaves a story that captures the true essence of that first romance: from its initial excitement that enthralls the senses, to its buoyant passion, and finally to its devastating, heartbreaking end.

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

Atria Books

Alma Belasco is a young Polish girl who has been sent to San Francisco to escape the Nazis to live with her relatives during World War II. There she meets and falls in love with Ichimei Fukuda, the gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener.

The young couple is torn apart when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Ichimei and his family are sent to an internment camp by the United States government along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. The two lovers reunite time and again, however, social expectations and race keep them apart.

Alma and Ichimei must find fulfillment where they can, with clandestine meetings and by exchanging love letters which include beautiful poetic prose and drawings. Theirs is a romance that envelops the whole heart, soul and mind, and neither time, distance nor circumstance will diminish their all encompassing love.

In The Japanese Lover, Allende analyzes how family and society seek to enforce conformity, and how peers apply pressure to change the desires of the heart. But within the pages of this marvelous story, she also reminds us of the fortitude it takes to love unconditionally, to nurture romance despite overwhelming obstacles, and why we should cherish every moment we share with someone we care for.

Epic in scope, timely and ultimately unforgettable, Allende’s latest spans seven decades from World War II till today. I encourage you to read this extraordinary, poignant, lyrical novel. It will touch your heart and change you in ways you didn’t think possible.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende
(Photo by Lori Barra)


Isabel Allende won worldwide acclaim when her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. In addition to launching Allende’s career as a renowned author, the book, which grew out of a farewell letter to her dying grandfather, also established her as a feminist force in the international literary world.

She has since written 20 more works, including Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, Stories of Eva Luna, The Infinite Plan, Daughter of Fortune, and Paula. Her books have been translated into more than 35 languages and have sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. She lives in California.

Visit the author at, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

By Isabel Allende
336 pgs. Atria Books. $28.

Enjoy the video preview of The Japanese Lover. 

Watch Isabel Allende talk about the book below.

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

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