My Invented Country

My Invented Country

3.7 8
by Isabel Allende, Margaret Sayers Peden

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Isabel Allende evokes the magnificent landscapes of her country; a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit; and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today.

The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on

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Isabel Allende evokes the magnificent landscapes of her country; a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit; and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today.

The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer. And the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on her adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth an overdue acknowledgment that Allende had indeed left home. My Invented Country, mimicking the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance between past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants and to all of us who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“A stunningly intimate memoir …. Allende is that rare writer whose understanding of story matches her mastery of language.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Poignant … Allende’s keen intelligence and lively prose keep readers wishing for more.”
Boston Globe
“Throughout, Allende’s writing is beautifully descriptive, with eloquent turns of phrase and vivid metaphors.”
New York Times Book Review
“Charming and entertaining.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Isabel Allende [is] surely one of the most graceful and yet haunting writers alive.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“At every bend [Allende] delights us with unexpected humor.”
Orlando Sentinel
“A delicious exploration.”
“Riveting in its frankness and compassion, … [Allende’s] account of why and how she became a writer is profoundly moving.”
The New York Times
The freshest and most specific images in this book all come directly from Allende's life. Some of the loveliest writing is about her maternal grandfather, a ''formidable man'' who ''gave me the gift of discipline and love for language.'' Clearly this autocratic and idiosyncratic man had a large and lasting influence on Allende, and the picture of him that she creates in these pages is full-bodied and affecting. He was a man who ''never believed in germs, for the same reason he didn't believe in ghosts: he'd never seen one,'' and who admired the young Isabel's desire to be strong and independent but was unable to foster or even condone such unfeminine characteristics. — Peter Cameron
The Los Angeles Times
When Allende poses sweeping general truths, she leaves room for argument. When with broad brushstrokes she summarizes recent history, I am not completely convinced. But the book gets my undivided attention when it expounds on the relationship of the author to that country of hers, invented, imaginary, fictional, to the story of her family, which is itself invented memory, and to her vocation as a narrator. We discover that the writer, throughout a difficult life of wandering and uncertainty, acquired a certainty, a strong territory of her own, a grounding, in her narratives. This for writers, or nonwriters for that matter, is the most suggestive, most instructive, aspect of the work. — Jorge Edwards
The Washington Post
The book graphically illustrates the traits Allende attributes to Chileans -- it is self-absorbed, willfully paradoxical and often irritating, but at least it is never boring. A plateful of noodles, perhaps, but very nicely spiced. — Joanne Omang
Publishers Weekly
Allende's novels-The House of the Spirits; Eva Luna; Daughter of Fortune; etc.-are of the sweeping epic variety, often historical and romantic, weaving in elements of North and South American culture. As with most fiction writers, Allende's work is inspired by personal experiences, and in this memoir-cum-study of her "home ground," the author delves into the history, social mores and idiosyncrasies of Chile, where she was raised, showing, in the process, how that land has served as her muse. Allende was born in Peru in 1942, but spent much of her childhood-and a significant portion of her adulthood-in Santiago (she now lives in California). She ruminates on Chilean women (their "attraction lies in a blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist"); the country's class system ("our society is like a phyllo pastry, a thousand layers, each person in his place"); and Chile's turbulent history ("the political pendulum has swung from one extreme to another; we have tested every system of government that exists, and we have suffered the consequences"). She readily admits her view is subjective-to be sure, she is not the average Chilean (her stepfather was a diplomat; her uncle, Salvador Allende, was Chile's president from 1970 until his assassination in 1973). And at times, her assessments transcend Chile, especially when it comes to comments on memory and nostalgia. This is a reflective book, lacking the pull of Allende's fiction but unearthing intriguing elements of the author's captivating history. Agents, Carmen Balcells and Gloria Gutierrez. (June) Forecast: Despite a six-city author tour and advertising in the Miami Herald, New York Times Book Review and San Francisco Chronicle, this book probably won't attract as much attention as Allende's fiction does. Still, after having written 10 other books, Allende's developed a strong fan base, and her loyal readers will undoubtedly clamor for this. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Allende (The House of the Spirits) explores the homeland she left following the military coup and death of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens, on September 11, 1973. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 prompted her to consider both the country she still called "home" and her adopted homeland, the United States. The result is a combination memoir, travelog, and social history that moves from one reflection to another as the mood or memory strikes the author. She paints a fascinating picture of an unusual country, one that features flamingoes in the north and volcanoes in the south, with apples and grapes in the central valley region. She is unflinchingly honest about detailing Chilean adherence to a class system, the people's fixation with machismo, and their inherent conservatism and clannishness. Chileans thrive on bureaucracy, funerals, and soap operas. It's unfortunate that the United States engineered a coup that toppled a successful democratic government-one that seemed to be leaning too close to communism to suit President Nixon-and thus opened the door for a brutal dictatorship that the people of Chile endured for many years. The author claims she has always felt like an outsider in her native country-within her family, social class, and even her Catholic religion-yet the fondness and nostalgia she brings to her narrative portray a longing that transcends her exile and reveals the inspiration Chile has had on the formation of her writing and life. My Invented Country is a warm and rich tribute to two very different countries, as well as a testament to the indomitable spirit Chileans bring to their tempestuous past. Listeners will enjoy hearing Allende narrate her own introduction before turning over the reading to Blair Brown, an accomplished actress whose voice is easy on the ears yet captures the proper emotional notes. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"I can't be objective where Chile is concerned," writes novelist Allende (City of the Beasts, 2002, etc.) in this evocative and, yes, highly personal, social geography cum memoir. Allende describes her tour of her homeland as "a series of reflections, which always are selective and tinted," and readers wouldn't want it any other way. She starts with her childhood, which "wasn't a happy one, but it was interesting," then proceeds by caroms, letting memory lead the text this way and that. She explores the country’s physiography: the inhospitable north, where flamingoes are "brush strokes of pink among salt crystals glittering like precious stones"; the central valley's apples and grapes; Santiago, with "the pretensions of a large city but the soul of a village"; or the volcanic southern zone, with its wind and rain. Yet this is primarily a social and personal journey. Allende writes about her family's history, about her experiences with the politesse that hides the unbreachable class system, and about the poor, who are "well educated, informed, and aware of their rights." The nation’s sobriety is matched by its violence: "experience has taught us that when we lose control we are capable of the worst barbarism." Many believe in the supernatural, and the Catholic Church’s influence is pervasive. Women, with their "blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist," are also "abettors of machismo: they bring up their daughters to serve and their sons to be served." Allende shows us organ grinders, gypsies, and hot bread. She makes connections with her books. "Each country has its customs, its manias, its complexes," she writes. "I know the idiosyncrasies of mine like the palm of myhand"--and there lies her nostalgia. The musicality in Allende's voice bevels all but the melancholy, especially the sad day in 1973 when the CIA orchestrated a coup against her uncle, Salvador Allende. Dazzling as a kaleidoscope: an artful tumbling and knocking that throws light and reveals strange depths. Author tour. Agents: Carmen Balcells, Gloria Gutierrez

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial Series
Edition description:
First Perennial Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)

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