Skip to main content

Review: Bar Flower, by Lea Jacobson

In Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess, Lea Jacobson recounts the roughly two years she spent as a nightclub hostess in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

After she went to Japan in 2003 to work as an English teacher, Jacobson was fired from her job after a psychiatrist spilled the beans to her employer about her fragile emotional condition. She then went to Tokyo, where she began work as a hostess, entertaining Japanese “sararimen,” even though she was psychologically unwell and unable to cope with the rigid demands of Japanese culture. Jacobson describes this underbelly of Tokyo culture as being in a “floating world,” where everything is fluid and nothing stays constant for very long. As a result, Jacobson’s identity kept changing. Along the way, we’re introduced to a variety of interesting characters, including a dragon-like mama-san, an Irish boyfriend named Nigel, who lies to her and breaks her heart; and a four-year-old girl who learned fluent English entirely from Disney movies.

Jacobson’s knowledge and analysis of Japanese culture is spot-on. She details her drug addiction without feeling sorry for herself, and I found myself becoming emotionally invested in her heartbreaking story. But Jacobson learns a valuable lesson from her mistakes, and she does a wonderful job of analyzing, not rationalizing, her decisions.


Gayle said…
I've been intrigued by this book - thanks for the review.
Matt said…
How come everybody goes to Japan to be an English teacher? :)

Sounds like a very fun read. I can't help feeling that I was lost in translation when I was there for a visit!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…