The China Lover, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


When Sidney Vanoven is sent to occupied Japan, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, it is his dream posting.

By day, he works in the censor's office watching Japanese films; at night he immerses himself in the sensual pleasures of Tokyo.His job leads him into the circle of the beautiful film star Shirley Yamaguchi, a passionate and indomitable woman, whose wartime secrets hint at deception and betrayal.

As he learns more of her story it seems to echo Japan's own dark secret.

In The China Lover, Ian Buruma has created an exhilarating saga of war-torn Japan that is epic in scale, richly imagined and vividly populated.

It is quite simply unforgettable.


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One woman - Ri Koran / Li Xianglan / Yoshiko Yamaguchi / Shirley Yamaguchi (singer, movie star, reporter, diva; a real character, born in 1920 and as far as I know still alive today) - three men - all into movies/propaganda/censorship/politics. The men encounter Yamaguchi at different stages of her career. Telling their own story, they also tell the story of Japan in the 20th century. The three lives bound by one shared relationship also reflect on the role of art in politics, on art being corrupted and prostituted for 'the good cause'. And so are the characters, due to their need to either perform or watch. The strength of this novel is in its historical detail. As many of the characters are modeled after real and illustrious characters, the internet is a rich source of additional material to this novel, providing text, sound and pictures. The novel somewhat peters out in the end. The political, cultural and ethical implications are disturbing (Buruma is the 'puppet master', asking all the questions but not really helping). - A rich reading experience whetting one's appetite for more.

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