J. David Simons pulls off an extraordinary trick in 'An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful': the history of post-war Japan; the labyrinth of blame and shame from imperial war atrocities to the gratuitous horror of Nagasaki; Japan beating the West at its own military-industrial game all encapsulated in a subtle, seductive love story. 'An Exquisite Sense' is in the tradition of Graham Greene or our own William Boyd, taking in great sweeps of history without ever losing sight of the personal, the telling detail. Simons clearly knows Japan and, like his hero Edward, has glimpsed, in the cracks between the ancient and über-modern, the East/West schizophrenia, the soul of the place. An accomplished and compelling novel by a storyteller at the top of his game, An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful lives up to its ambitious title, delivering a story that is both delicate in its detail and politically robust. --Chris Dolan, author of Redlegs and Ascension Day
If you're going to call your novel An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful then you have to be prepared to back it up in both style and substance. The title recalls such seminal and philosophical texts as The Unbearable Lightness of Being or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and that's a lot to live up to. Luckily David Simons does this with style and substance. Simons pulls off one of the hardest tricks for a novelist, reflecting world events through the lives of individuals while avoiding the reader feeling like they are being given a history lesson or are being preached to… Simons deals with some major topics, but does so with a wonderful subtlety that lends itself to recognition and empathy…This is Edward's story and it is his journey from a confused, if at times hubristic, youth to a man facing his final days that is so impressive. His life comes to be defined by love, and regret, and the passing of time tips the balance from one to the other, although it also allows for forgiveness, or at least acceptance, from others if never quite from himself… There are a couple of books and writers that [this] reminds me of: James Robertson's And The Land Lay Still, Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers, in style if not in story. Like that novel An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful is artistic, literary and thoroughly involving… Simons depicts the pains and disappointments of old age with an honesty and eloquence which is as rare as it is welcome… A novelist who understands the craft of writing and who, in this case, has applied it exquisitely. --Alistair Braidwood, Scots WhayHae
J David Simons' latest novel set in Scotland, London and Japan is that rare thing, a genuine tour-de-force, a beautifully written love story that combines political impetus, questions about art and truth, and an exotic setting once almost blown to extinction in an act of war. It is the kind of sophisticated, grown-up writing that properly intrigues, and calls to mind the best of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks. --Lesley McDowell, author and critic
About the Author
J. David Simons is a former lawyer and lecturer at universities in Japan and the UK and is the author of two novels, short stories and essays. His first novel, The Credit Draper, was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize, and he has received bursaries and writing fellowships from three prestigious organisations. Having spent many years in Japan and other parts of the world, he now lives in Glasgow, the city of his birth.