Categories: Magic Realism, Translated Fiction
As a girl, Clara del Valle can read fortunes, make objects move as if they had lives of their own, and predict the future. Following the mysterious death of her sister, Rosa the Beautiful, Clara is mute for nine years. When she breaks her silence, it is to announce that she will be married soon to the stern and volatile landowner Esteban Trueba.
Set in an unnamed Latin American country over three generations, The House of the Spirits is a magnificent epic of a proud and passionate family, secret loves and violent revolution.
This beautifully written epic tells the story of generations of the families Trueba and del Valle, whose fates are forever connected when Esteban Trueba falls in love with Rosa. The magical realism is so well-done, the magic interwoven seamlessly into the story and adding a layer of beauty to it – I have a soft spot for magical realism and this was just perfectly executed.
The House of Spirits is a story about love, fate, power and justice. I was surprised by the feminist tone of the book, and by how contemporary the discussions feel – classism, the unionization of the people, violence against women, the rights of rural workers, justice vs. charity and so on. This has so many layers, so many twists and turns, I could talk about this book forever (in fact, I haven’t stopped talking about it for over a week now).
This is a masterpiece, a story that I don’t think I will forget anytime soon. This gave me the same feelings of “wow this was amazing, I’ll never read anything like it” that A Hundred Years of Solitude did, and I particularly enjoyed that it’s focused on women main characters (whereas A Hundred Years of Solitude focuses on the men).
I am amused that the synopses I’ve read of this book say it takes place in an “unnamed country” (including the one I copied here), but in case anyone is wondering, this is clearly Chile.
This was beautifully written and has quickly become one of my favorite books.
I wonder how much of the favorable light Isabel Allende painted The President in (who was Salvador Allende, a cousin of hers) is biased. It did strike me as interesting how flawless and brave that character was portrayed, but of course I can only speculate.
In any case, one of the things that really gave me heartache was how clear the book shows the involvement of the US in deposing a socialist president via a military coup, at cost of democracy for Chile and resulting in the torture and oppression of millions of people.