Book Reviews: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende


Around the World for a Good Book selection for: Chile

Author: Isabel Allende
Title: The House of the Spirits
Publication Info: Bantam (1986)
ISBN: 0553273914

Summary/Review:

This is an epic tale following several generations of one dysfunctional family: the wealthy Trueba family of Chile.  There story is set against the trials and tribulations of 20th-century Chile leading up to the Pinochet dictatorship (although Pinochet and other real-life characters are never mentioned by name) creating a historical novel with a touch of magical realism.  Esteban Trueba is the patriarch of the family, a hot-headed character who rapes and abuses the tenants of his estate and when he’s unable to control his family, channels his angry energy into right-wing politics.  His wife Clara is a clairvoyant and more-focused on spiritualism and the afterlife than the world around her, yet holds her family together all the same.  Their daughter Blanca causes scandal by her affair with the son of her father’s foreman Pedro Tercero García.  Their daughter is Alba who will go on to get involved with the socialist revolutionaries.

The book’s strength is its characters and Allende manages to make each of them sympathetic, even the loathsome Esteban Trueba.  It’s also subtle in how it builds up to the revolutions of the 1970s.  For much of the book, the characters seem aloof from the political nature of Chile so it’s quite shocking how they are thrust into major roles in the later chapters.

This is an excellent book, a deserved classic, and definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.


Rating: ****

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