This translation of the original Japanese title "Chijin no Ai" (A Fool's Love), can be interpreted as Tanizaki's skewed portrayal of the East versus West culture clash of the 1920s, during the Taisho Period.
The principle female character, Naomi, is Tanizaki's exaggerated depiction of a victim of the "moga"
(modern girl) / "mobo" (modern boy) phenomenon. Starting as a young and innocent café waitress, she meets Joji, an independent, frugal, commonsensical engineer who introduces to her several Western ideas, like piano, the English language and Western-style dining. She easily integrates these aspects of Western culture in her life, but soon becomes enormously fascinated. As a result, she develops into a frivolous, egocentric, manipulative, and crass woman. With Naomi's transformation, Joji must learn to compromise between his moral integrity and her demands.
The principle male character, Joji, can be seen as Tanizaki's depiction of the struggles between the culture of traditional Japan and the fierce invasion of the cultures of the West. He too undergoes a sort of transformation that may shock readers at the end.
Having read many of Tanizaki's other novels, I have discovered this work to be one of his more milder ones in terms of sexual themes. Unlike some of his other novels, readers will not find foot fetishism, physical sadomasochism, or worship of excreta in Naomi. And surprisingly, this novel was still a controversial work in 1920's Japan. Nevertheless, I recommend this novel to readers interested in Japan's prewar Westernization, works of Tanizaki or social satire.