Isabel Allende: The House of the Spirits

Here, in an astonishing debut by a gifted storyteller, is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.

Esteban — The patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by his tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess.

Clara — The matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas.

Blanca — Their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father’s foreman fuels Esteban’s everlasting contempt… even as it produces the grandchild he adores.

Alba — The fruit of Blanca’s forbidden love, a luminous beauty, a fiery and willful woman… the family’s break with the past and link to the future.

Some books make me hate my role as a reviewer, and this is one of them. Did I love this book, or hate it? I really could go either way–I feel so conflicted. It’s exactly the sweeping type of family saga that I love, and I could hardly put it down. The magical realism was both powerful and convincing. There is no doubt that Allende is a masterful craftsman at storytelling.

However, there were a few things that tripped me up. Mainly, the perspective from which this story was told. The narration switches back and forth from third-person to first- and back again. Sometimes Esteban is simply a character in the novel, other times it seems he is telling the story…other times I wasn’t really sure WHO was narrating. It was very confusing. Every time the perspective switched, it took me out of the reading, and that is never a good thing.

Also, this is a very violent book, no question about it. Trigger warnings for domestic abuse, rape, sexual violence to children, war. Allende does nothing to mask truth in her fiction–this shit is going on and she shows it vividly. But it is quite jarring to read–again, she’s such a masterful writer that you feel EVERYTHING that is happening as if you were there.

So this is a book that I both loved and hated–which I suppose means it worked. I can’t up and recommend this to just anybody, but if you are looking for a brilliant piece of literature about a family amidst military coup, here you go.

Read The World:  Chile

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