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!