The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits

by Isabel Allende

Paperback(Reprint)

$17.00 View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, May 30

Overview

“Spectacular...An absorbing and distinguished work...The House of the Spirits with its all-informing, generous, and humane sensibility, is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.” —The New York Times Book Review

The House of the Spirits, the unforgettable first novel that established Isabel Allende as one of the world’s most gifted storytellers, brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political power is tempered only by his love for his delicate wife Clara, a woman with a mystical connection to the spirit world. When their daughter Blanca embarks on a forbidden love affair in defiance of her implacable father, the result is an unexpected gift to Esteban: his adored granddaughter Alba, a beautiful and strong-willed child who will lead her family and her country into a revolutionary future.

One of the most important novels of the twentieth century, The House of the Spirits is an enthralling epic that spans decades and lives, weaving the personal and the political into a universal story of love, magic, and fate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501117015
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 12/15/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 23,932
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of a number of bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including The House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, The Stories of Eva Luna, Paula, and The Japanese Lover. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages and have sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. She is the receipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and she divides her time between California and Chile.

Hometown:

San Rafael, California

Date of Birth:

August 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Lima, Peru

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rosa the Beautiful

Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy. She was already in the habit of writing down important matters, and afterward, when she was mute, she also recorded trivialities, never suspecting that fifty years later I would use her notebooks to reclaim the past and overcome terrors of my own. Barrabás arrived on a Holy Thursday. He was in a despicable cage, caked with his own excrement and urine, and had the lost look of a hapless, utterly defenseless prisoner; but the regal carriage of his head and the size of his frame bespoke the legendary giant he would become. It was a bland, autumnal day that gave no hint of the events that the child would record, which took place during the noon mass in the parish of San Sebastián, with her whole family in attendance. As a sign of mourning, the statues of the saints were shrouded in purple robes that the pious ladies of the congregation unpacked and dusted off once a year from a cupboard of sacristy. Beneath these funereal sheets the celestial retinue resembled nothing so much as a roomful of furniture awaiting movers, an impression that the candles, the incense, and the soft moans of the organ were powerless to counteract. Terrifying dark bundles loomed where the life-size saints had stood, each with its influenza-pale expression, its elaborate wig woven from the hair of someone long dead, its rubies, pearls and emeralds of painted glass, and the rich gown of a Florentine aristocrat. The only one whose appearance was enhanced by mourning was the church's patron saint, Sebastián, for during Holy Week the faithful were spared the sight of that body twisted in the most indecent posture, pierced by arrows, and dripping with blood and tears like a suffering homosexual, whose wounds, kept miraculously fresh by Father Restrepo's brush, made Clara tremble with disgust.

It was a long week of penitence and fasting, during which there were no card games and no music that might lead to lust or abandon; and within the limits of possibility, the strictest sadness and chastity were observed, even though it was precisely at this time that the forked tail of the devil pricked most insistently at Catholic flesh. The fast consisted of soft puff pastries, delicious vegetarian dishes, spongy tortillas, and enormous cheeses from the countryside, with which each family commemorated the Passion of the Lord, taking every precaution not to touch the least morsel of meat or fish on pain of excommunication, as Father Restrepo had repeatedly made clear. No one had ever dared to disobey him. The priest was blessed with a long, incriminating finger, which he used to point out sinners in public, and a tongue well schooled in arousing emotions.

"There's the thief who steals from the collection box!" he shouted from the pulpit as he pointed to a gentleman who was busying himself with the lint on his lapel so as not to show his face. "And there's the shameless hussy who prostitutes herself down by the docks!" he accused Doña Ester Trueba, disabled by arthritis and a devotee of the Virgin del Carmen, who opened her eyes wide, not knowing the meaning of the word or where the docks were. "Repent, sinners, foul carrion, unworthy of our Lord's great sacrifice! Fast! Do penance!"

Carried away by vocational zeal, the priest had all he could do to avoid openly disobeying the instructions of his ecclesiastic superiors, who, shaken by the winds of modernism, were opposed to hair shirts and flagellation. He himself was a firm believer in the value of a good thrashing to vanquish the weaknesses of the soul and was famous for his unrestrained oratory. The faithful followed him from parish to parish, sweating as he described the torments of the damned in hell, the bodies ripped apart by various ingenious torture apparatuses, the eternal flames, the hooks that pierced the male member, the disgusting reptiles that crept up female orificies, and the myriad other sufferings that he wove into his sermons to strike the fear of God into the hearts of his parishioners. Even Satan was described in his most intimate perversions in the Galician accents of this priest whose mission in this world was to rouse the conscience of his indolent Creole flock.

Severo del Valle was an atheist and a Mason, but he had political ambitions and could not allow himself the luxury of missing the most heavily attended mass on Sundays and feast days, when everyone would have a chance to see him. His wife, Nívea, preferred to deal with God without benefit of intermediaries. She had a deep distrust of cassocks and was bored by descriptions of heaven, purgatory and hell, but she shared her husband's parliamentary ambitions, hoping that if he won a seat in Congress she would finally secure the vote for women, for which she had fought for the past ten years, permitting none of her numerous pregnancies to get in her way. On this Holy Thursday, Father Restrepo had led his audience to the limits of their endurance with his apocalyptic visions, and Nívea was beginning to feel dizzy. She wondered if she was pregnant again. Despite cleansings with vinegar and spongings with gall, she had given birth to fifteen children, of whom eleven were still alive, but she had good reason to suppose that she was settling into maturity, because her daughter Clara, the youngest of her children, was now ten. It seemed that the force of her astonishing fertility had finally begun to ebb. She was able to attribute her present discomfort to Father Restrepo when he pointed at her to illustrate a point about the Pharisees, who had tried to legalize bastards and civil marriage, thereby dismembering the family, the fatherland, private property, and the Church, and putting women on an equal footing with men—this in open defiance of the law of God, which was most explicit on the issue. Along with their children, Nívea and Severo took up the entire third row of benches. Clara was seated beside her mother, who squeezed her hand impatiently whenever the priest lingered too long on the sins of the flesh, for she knew that this would only lead the child to visualize with even greater accuracy aberrations that transcended reality. Clara was extremely precocious and had inherited the runaway imagination of all the women in her family on her mother's side. This was evident from the questions she asked, to which no one knew the answers.

The temperature inside the church had risen, and the penetrating odor of the candles, the incense, and the tightly packed crowd all contributed to Nívea's fatigue. She wished the ceremony would end at once so she could return to her cool house, sit down among the ferns, and taste the pitcher of barley water flavored with almonds that Nana always made on holidays. She looked around at her children. The younger ones were tired and rigid in their Sunday best, and the older ones were beginning to squirm. Her gaze rested on Rosa, the oldest of her living daughters, and, as always, she was surprised. The girl's strange beauty had a disturbing quality that even she could not help noticing, for this child of hers seemed to have been made of a different material from the rest of the human race. Even before she was born, Nívea had known she was not of this world, because she had already seen her in dreams. This was why she had not been surprised when the midwife screamed as the child emerged. At birth Rosa was white and smooth, without a wrinkle, like a porcelain doll, with green hair and yellow eyes—the most beautiful creature to be born on earth since the days of original sin, as the midwife put it, making the sign of the cross. From her very first bath, Nana had washed her hair with camomile, which softened its color, giving it the hue of old bronze, and put her out in the sun with nothing on, to strengthen her skin, which was translucent in the most delicate parts of her chest and armpits, where the veins and secret texture of the muscles could be seen. Nana's gypsy tricks did not suffice, however, and rumors quickly spread that Nívea had borne an angel. Nívea hoped that the successive and unpleasant stages of growth would bring her daughter a few imperfections, but nothing of the sort occurred. On the contrary, at eighteen Rosa was still slender and remained unblemished; her maritime grace had, if anything, increased. The tone of her skin, with its soft bluish lights, and of her hair, as well as her slow movements and silent character, all made one think of some inhabitant of the sea. There was something of the fish to her (if she had had a scaly tail, she would have been a mermaid), but her two legs placed her squarely on the tenuous line between a human being and a creature of myth. Despite everything, the young woman had led a nearly normal life. She had a fiancé and would one day marry, on which occasion the responsibility of her beauty would become her husband's. Rosa bowed her head and a ray of sunlight pierced the Gothic stained-glass windows of the church, outlining her face in a halo of light. A few people turned to look at her and whispered among themselves, as often happened as she passed, but Rosa seemed oblivious. She was immune to vanity and that day she was more absent than usual, dreaming of new beasts to embroider on her tablecloth, creatures that were half bird and half mammal, covered with iridescent feathers and endowed with horns and hooves, and so fat and with such stubby wings that they defied the laws of biology and aerodynamics. She rarely thought about her fiancé, Esteban Trueba, not because she did not love him but because of her forgetful nature and because two years' absence is a long time. He was working in the mines in the North. He wrote to her regularly and Rosa sometimes replied, sending him lines of poetry and drawings of flowers she had copied out on sheets of parchment paper. Through this correspondence, which Nívea violated with impunity at regular intervals, she learned about the hazards of a miner's life, always dreading avalanches, pursuing elusive veins, asking for credit against good luck that was still to come, and trusting that someday he would strike a marvelous seam of gold that would allow him to become a rich man overnight and return to lead Rosa by the arm to the altar, thus becoming the happiest man in the universe, as he always wrote at the end of his letters. Rosa, however, was in no rush to marry and had all but forgotten the only kiss they had exchanged when they said goodbye; nor could she recall the color of her tenacious suitor's eyes. Because of the romantic novels that were her only reading matter, she liked to picture him in thick-soled boots, his skin tanned from the desert winds, clawing the earth in search of pirates' treasure, Spanish doubloons, and Incan jewels. It was useless for Nívea to attempt to convince her that the wealth of mines lay in rocks, because to Rosa it was inconceivable that Esteban Trueba would spend years piling up boulders in the hope that by subjecting them to God only knew what wicked incinerating processes, they would eventually spit out a gram of gold. Meanwhile she awaited him without boredom, unperturbed by the enormous task she had taken upon herself: to embroider the largest tablecloth in the world. She had begun with dogs, cats, and butterflies, but soon her imagination had taken over, and her needle had given birth to a whole paradise filled with impossible creatures that took shape beneath her father's worried eyes. Severo felt that it was time for his daughter to shake off her lethargy, stand firmly in reality, and learn the domestic skills that would prepare her for marriage, but Nívea thought differently. She preferred not to torment her daughter with earthly demands, for she had a premonition that her daughter was a heavenly being, and that she was not destined to last very long in the vulgar traffic of this world. For this reason she left her alone with her embroidery threads and said nothing about Rosa's nightmarish zoology.

A bone in Nívea's corset snapped and the point jabbed her in the ribs. She felt she was choking in her blue velvet dress, with its high lace collar, its narrow sleeves, and a waist so tight that when she removed her belt her stomach jumped and twisted for half an hour while her organs fell back in place. She had often discussed this with her suffragette friends and they had all agreed that until women shortened their dresses and their hair and stopped wearing corsets, it made no difference if they studied medicine or had the right to vote, because they would not have the strength to do it, but she herself was not brave enough to be among the first to give up the fashion. She noticed that the voice from Galicia had ceased hammering at her brain. They were in one of those long breaks in the sermon that the priest, a connoisseur of unbearable silences, used with frequency and to great effect. His burning eyes glanced over the parishioners one by one. Nívea dropped Clara's hand and pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve to blot the drop of sweat that was rolling down her neck. The silence grew thick, and time seemed to stop within the church, but no one dared to cough or shift position, so as not to attract Father Restrepo's attention. His final sentences were still ringing between the columns.

Just at that moment, as Nívea would recall years later, in the midst of all that anxiety and silence, the voice of little Clara was heard in all its purity.

"Psst! Father Restrepo! If that story about hell is a lie, we're all fucked, aren't we. . . ."

The Jesuit's index finger, which was already raised to illustrate additional tortures, remained suspended like a lightning rod above his head. People stopped breathing, and those whose heads had been nodding suddenly woke up. Señor and Señora del Valle were the first to react. They were swept by panic as they saw their children fidget nervously. Severo understood that he must act before collective laughter broke out around them or some divine cataclysm occurred. He grabbed his wife by the arm and Clara by the neck and walked out dragging them behind him with enormous strides, followed by his other children, who stampeded toward the door. They managed to escape before the priest could summon a ray of lightning to turn them all into pillars of salt, but from the threshold they could hear his dreadful voice of offended archangel.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Spectacular.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Nothing short of astonishing . . . In The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende has indeed shown us the relationships between past and present, family and nation, city and country, spiritual and political values. She has done so with enormous imagination, sensitivity, and compassion.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  
“A vivid, absorbing work of art . . . [Allende’s] characters are fascinatingly detailed and human.”—People
 
“Extraordinary . . . powerful . . . sharply observant, witty and eloquent.”—The New York Times
 
“Mesmerizing . . . a novel of force and charm.”—The Washington Post

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The House of the Spirits 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 147 reviews.
Arlene54 More than 1 year ago
As a latinamerican I know what she is talking about: those big wooden houses, the importance of family, social classes differences, tabues, etc. She has recreated our early 1900's society quite accurately. Besides that magic surrounding the principal character! Spirits, unknown forces, besides the force of blood and family as life passes by are of great importance too! I bought the book as a gift, since I have to really, really like something in order to pass it to someone else. Buy this book, you won't regret it.
Nonie15 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all time! I loved the characters.  It is definitely for someone who likes cultural books that transport you to another era.  I don't want to give much of the plot away.  There are some elements of fantasy in the book, but it is mostly just a beautiful novel.  The imagery is powerful.  The stories of the women in the family is a topic anyone could be interested in.   
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is beautiful -- it swept me away and I wanted to be reading it every second I could. Just wonderful. The characters are so alive and the book is enchanting.
Jordyn-Stokes More than 1 year ago
In “The House of Spirits”, an extraordinary novel written by Isabel Allende, the reader explores the world of a Family in Chile who are all a little different. The story is told from two points of view and enthralls the reader through both of their lives and when put all together depicts a chilling, yet magical, journey of three generations in a demanding time period. Allende use of the tone throughout the novel can almost be described as distant and cold at times. As an example, when Rosa the Beautiful died the man examining her body became so smitten with her beauty he actually molested her body. The only witness to this was Rosa’s little Sister Clara. When describing this scene Allende writes in quick short sentences as if what was happening was not that important giving a sinister vibe to the description. One key character in the novel and also a narrator in some parts is Esteban Trueba. His character goes through many hardships throughout the novel and although strange at times as we go throughout his life the problems he faces are still almost relatable. Another important writing technique used by Allende was the uses of two narrators both strung along together. At first it is a bit confessing because you go through the first couple of pages with the understanding that this story will be told through a third person omniscient and then all of the sudden the word “I” pops up. Pretty much the whole book you are slightly confused but go along with it, it’s not until the end when you finally understand that the writer is Alba, Esteban’s granddaughter, and, as you have already probably figured out early on into the book, Esteban. Giving two different perspectives help establish the reader’s opinions and help create conflict and conflict is a main aspect within the book. Allende writing style can be best describe as very flowing at times its almost repetitiveness which gives the effect that she is writing the story as she thinks up new ideas and goes on, never stopping to correct herself. This gives off comforting sense, because it makes the reader feel like the story is being told orally, like maybe beside a campfire or an old story your grandmother would tell. Over all I love this book and I highly recommend this amazing piece of literature to anyone looking for a great book to curl up with on a rainy Sunday, to dive into on a bus, or anywhere they could have enough light to read with.
dochile More than 1 year ago
Well written.
Mauvaisefille More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books ever!! I read it when I was 13 years old in Literature Class and just fell in love with the story and the characters. This is a great South American story and it also makes me remember my family and country. It is A MUST READ.... A classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was in 5th grade when my older brother gave me this book. I didn't actually read it until I was in high school. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It makes you cry, it makes you laugh and ultimately live the life of the Truebas through and enchanting saga. I took my time readng it, relishing the details and love that Allende put into this beautiful novel. Once finished you feel as though you have come back from a very very long odyssey. Nothing seems the same anymore and you will never forget the Truebas, for their pain was your pain and their glory was yours as well. I recommend this to anyone to pick up and give it a shot. It is truly one of the most remarkable stories ever told.
Anonymous 4 months ago
One of my favorite books!
Audelihur 7 months ago
What an interesting journey! To be honest, at first, I was not too thrilled to read a book about spirits in a house; it sounded more like a Halloween tale. However, I am glad I gave it a try. The story was a bit difficult to follow at times. There were many similar names, many strong characters, unusual vocabulary words, and many simultaneous plots taking place, completing a circular narrative. The story contains realism and fantasy in perfect harmony. It weaves a political background based on historical events of the South American country of Chile, where the author is from. She uses magical realism to combine the political atmosphere, engrossed with an obvious chauvinistic mentality, navigated by five generations of female characters, with a feminist strength offering a lesson in spirituality and karma. All 5 female characters have something to do with one main male character, Esteban Trueba, land owner, conservative and authoritative; who defends his perspectives with violence. The progression of the main female characters names: Nivea, Rosa, Clara, Blanca, Alba, alludes the reader to a vision that is becoming clearer with time. Nivea-whiteness of snow, matriarch, preaching freedoms while still enslaved by the luxuries provided to her by her husband. Esteban Trueba asks to marry one of Nivea’s daughters: Rosa the beautiful –who was magical with transparent skin, green hair and yellow eyes, and lives the short life of a rose, as she dies from a poisoned drink intended for her father. Esteban then asks to marry Nivea’s other daughter, Clara –clear, see through or pure, who has the magical gift of intermingling with the “other world”, able to foresee the future. Through Clara, the story entangles a wide array of characters, all with very peculiar, distinctive traits. Esteban Trueba’s violent and chauvinistic style affects everyone in his surrounding, trickling down to his grandchildren. Esteban and Clara’s first child is Blanca –white, blank, clean or unmarked, almost in reference to a blank canvas, ready to produce change. Blanca does not follow her father’s privilege and classists views, and falls in love with a commoner, Pedro Tercero –Pedro The Third, illustrating that for commoners, life is supposed to be the same misery and poverty from one generation to the next: Pedro “The Third” is expected to follow the life path of his father, Pedro “Segundo” or The Second, and his grandfather, Pedro. However, from Clara and Esteban’s love, Alba is born –Alba means dawn, a new beginning, the start of a new era. Alba, who shared her grandmother’s, Clara, mystical gifts, and had green hair like her great aunt Rosa, was unfortunately the recipient of her grandfather’s, Esteban Trueba, karma. Though innocent, she received the resulting hatred and anger from decades of violence planted by her grandfather. However, Alba, like her name illustrates, breaks the recurrent cycle of hatred, revenge and violence. Through her appreciation for her family, for the history and for progress, there is a new and different possible outcome, one where there is tolerance between the parties involved, based on the love they have for her. It is a great story, very rich and colorful!
riofriotex on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve been reading a lot of Allende¿s books. This was her first, which led to her being described as part of a literary movement of other Latin American writers (such as Carlos Fuentes, Joreg Luis Borges, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) who combined realism and fantasy to produce what became known as ¿magical realism.¿ After reading her memoirs (Paula and My Invented Country), one can see where the inspiration for the story was the political turmoil in Allende¿s native Chile, and her own family (particularly her maternal grandparents) were the inspiration for the characters in the book. Allende is a wonderful storyteller, though, and I highly recommend this book.
Panopticon2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a classic example of a book which - were it not for my book club - I would likely never have picked up. What a gem I would have missed! This is an amazing novel - by turns tender, magical, lucid, violent and tragic. It has left me wanting to learn a lot more about the history of Chile during the 20th century, and opened a window for me into South American culture. Loved it.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Magic realism and family sagas aren't really my thing, so I wasn't very optimistic when I started this book. To say that I was pleasantly surprised doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. The novel focuses on 4 generations of the del Valle-Trueba family, an upperclass family whose women are gifted with psychic powers. Moving through the family's story simulatenously carries us through a century of Chilean politics from oppression by the upper classes to the turmoil of a democratically-elected Communist president to the brutality of life under a military dictator. What made the novel special to me is the way it weaves family, politics and questions of life and death together into a believable whole. In spite of the novel's wide scope, Isabel Allende never forgets that characters are the heart of the story. Each member of the large cast is a unique, believable person. And although the family lives through an extraordinary time, their basic humanity shines through. Family conflict takes on capitalist-vs.-communist flavor, but the underlying generation gap rings true even for readers living in modern-day America.Allende's prose is as impressive as her characterization. Every word is well-chosen and meaningful and every sentence is alive with Latin rhythym. Sometimes I even underlined phrases so I could come back to savor them later.With such a fascinating cast of characters to explore, it would be easy to overlook the "literary" elements of the novel, but these too are well-executed. Through careful, clever motifs and symbolism, Allende warns readers what's coming for Chile's exploitative upper class -- and lets us know they're not going to heed the warning until it's too late. Deciphering these hidden clues is a big part of what made me love the book so much, so your admiration probably won't be as strong if you're not interested in doing a close reading. Even so, the book's fast pace and rhythymic prose are well-suited to casual Sunday afternoon reading -- just steel yourself for the brutal ending.
jasmyn9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A look into the life of a family in Chile. The story covers several generations of the Treuba family, through the highs and lows of finances, political struggle, and revolution. A hint of mysticism runs in the family in the form of speaking with spirits and glimpses of the future. We see the coutry's stuggling political changes through the eyes of Esteban Trueba and the journals of his wife Clara, who took detailed journals of her life. We see the familly struggles as the times change and traditions are rewrittin in the eyes of the younger generation. There is discord and arguments and emotional undonditional forgiveness, there is love at first sight and grudge held through many years that see shocking conclusions.The story of the Trueba family kept me captivated throughout the entire read. I will putting this book on my list of ones to read again in the future.
ariebonn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I borrowed this book from a friend and had it for a long, long time before I finally go to it. When I actually started this book my first reaction was, what was I waiting for??Spanning four generations of the del Valle family, The House of the Spirits is an amazing family saga based in South America in the twentieth century. Clara del Valle is a young girl who is able to predict every event in her life although not able to change the future. When her uncle Marcos dies and his body is delivered to her house, along with a puppy called Barrábas, Clara decides to start keeping a journal, which is later used by her husband Esteban and granddaughter Alba to piece together the story of their family. Clara's sister, Rosa the beautiful is engaged to Esteban Trueba, until one day she is accidentally poisoned instead of her father. Esteban continues to work hard and through his determination makes a fortune out of his estate, Trés Marias. Nine years later he returns to the city and visits the del Valle family again. This time he gets engaged to Clara and the two get married. From then on, this compelling story continues to detail the lives of the del Valle / Trueba family as well as the social and political ongoings of the country. The female characters in this book make this a magical, yet heart wrenching story. There is just something special about Clara, and later Alba that gives you an entrancing feeling. This was a completely different culture and a whole new world for me, but it amazes me how people are always looking for the same thing no matter where they are - freedom. The peasants at Trés Marias are a perfect example of this, where the fight between the social classes is so evident and this book gives you a view from both angles. Until the very end of the book I couldn't decide whether I liked or hated Esteban Trueba. The way he oppressed the peasants and the way he treated his wife at times was definitely hateful, but there was also something that drew me to him, in his determination, the way he wanted to protect his family and the relationship he had with his granddaughter Alba. Most of all in this book, I liked how the personal and political aspects are woven together in a novel that analyzes the changes in the different generations of the family as well as those happening in the country, with the magical touch of the del Valle family to enhance the story but not ruin it with unrealistic occurrences.I've always heard good things about Isabel Allende and I am glad that I finally got to read this one. I am looking forward to reading more books by Allende, especially Zorro, which is another book I've had in my to-read list for a very long time!
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this, but found myself liking the book less and less as I turned the pages. It may just be that Magical Realism isn't a technique that resonates with me--though I hope it's just Allende's use of it I don't like, and I'm determined to try Borges, García Márquez, and Vargas Llosa someday. I did enjoy Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, which used this technique, although it's no favorite. But there at least the fantasy elements were woven smoothly throughout and it was apt in a book very much constructed as a fairy tale, complete with three sisters. The fantastic whimsy in House of the Spirits, which opens in the beginning of the 20th Century in Chile, feels more out of place. This is a story where "The Beautiful Rosa" of the first chapter was born with green hair and yellow eyes, where her sister Clara was a clairvoyant who made true prophesies and moved objects with her mind and their Uncle Mario constructed from a kit a flapping mechanical bird in which he flew away. But it's also a novel where Clara's future husband Esteban Trueba raped and impregnated just abut every young teen peasant girl in the area, had killed any peasant that opposed him, and where his granddaughter Alba endures rape and torture. I don't know enough to know if the mixture of the horrifying and the whimsical is typical in magical realism, but I do know the light-hearted and dark in the novel didn't for me blend well. It doesn't help that the repellant Esteban is the closest thing to a protagonist in the book, the character that connects every character to each other, and the story that is mostly told in a third person/omniscient perspective is frequently punctuated by his (singularly unreliable) first person narrative. Beyond that, I admit I found the socialist polemic obvious in this book distasteful.
3.14 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I'm getting tired of magical realism.
damsorrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The big problem I have with these "roman-fleuve" kinda family histories is that I get attached to a single permutation of the family and when they age and die, I have trouble feeling that the children/grand-children characters are as 3d as the ones I began with. This book has that issue, but it is otherwise consistently a joy.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hated Esteban Trueba, who narrates part of this novel, and figures prominently in the rest of it. But, I liked the book. To me, this is a real accomplishment of the author.....here is an unsympathetic character/narrator, who nevertheless participates in a compelling story of 3 generations of women.Ms. Allende has told a story of family, and at the same time, a socio-political story of Latin America, with a perfect balance between the two.Well worth reading.
estellen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this rich and imaginative book. You have to read and re-read it to get the feel of the musty old farm house, the dusty fields and the levitating furniture.
nancenwv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book about half way and finally gave up. I found her pace and plot to be really frustrating. She would give endless seemingly inconsequential details, and drop and pick up traits of characters (like the twin brothers) that gave them no sense or trajectory. I found myself very annoyed and have put it aside.
sarbear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3 generations of women are the leads in this story. At first I wondered what the point of this book was. Where was the author going with her magical realism ramblings and in-depth character development? Allende has a real way with creating characters. This book is amazing. It's deep on so many levels -- the 3 women and their relationships with the men in their life, their levels of independence, battles for equality, and civil war in their country. I first read it when I was 14 but had to do so once again.
laydonstorm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel places focus on one of the most important things life can offer, family. This novel is about 3 generations of stong women who are determined to not be held down by their masculine society. This is shown through their actions, such as Clara leaving after being hit, Blanca running away from her first husband after seeing what he did to the Indigenous people, and Alba who survives the Chilian equivalent to a concentration camp. This is a must read, for it opens ones eyes to the corruption of society.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first foray into magical realism. And I loved it. Plus, I like ghosts. And Chile. I think the movie was rather dumb though.
JenLacy22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent read that chronicles four generations of a family living in Chile. Politics is brilliantly weaved throughout the story when the author alludes to the Pinochet regime and the onset of political violence. This book is a wonderful example of magical realism, a genre that mixes reality with the fantastical.
amybrojo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know why it took me so long to read Allende's first book! Just like all her others, she weaves a beautiful story that spans generations of strong, magical women in the midst of revolution. I highly recommend this novel.