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Daughter of Fortune: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – October 30, 2001
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Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 2000: Until Isabel Allende burst onto the scene with her 1985 debut, The House of the Spirits, Latin American fiction was, for the most part, a boys' club comprising such heavy hitters as Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, and Mario Vargas Llosa. But the Chilean Allende shouldered her way in with her magical realist multi-generational tale of the Trueba family, followed it up with four more novels and a spate of nonfiction, and has remained in a place of honor ever since. Her sixth work of fiction, Daughter of Fortune, shares some characteristics with her earlier works: the canvas is wide, the characters are multi-generational and multi-ethnic, and the protagonist is an unconventional woman who overcomes enormous obstacles to make her way in the world. Yet one cannot accuse Allende of telling the same story twice; set in the mid-1800s, this novel follows the fortunes of Eliza Sommers, Chilean by birth but adopted by a British spinster, Rose Sommers, and her bachelor brother, Jeremy, after she is abandoned on their doorstep.
"You have English blood, like us," Miss Rose assured Eliza when she was old enough to understand. "Only someone from the British colony would have thought to leave you in a basket on the doorstep of the British Import and Export Company, Limited. I am sure they knew how good-hearted my brother Jeremy is, and felt sure he would take you in. In those days I was longing to have a child, and you fell into my arms, sent by God to be brought up in the solid principles of the Protestant faith and the English language."The family servant, Mama Fresia, has a different point of view, however: "You, English? Don't get any ideas, child. You have Indian hair, like mine." And certainly Eliza's almost mystical ability to recall all the events of her life would seem to stem more from the Indian than the Protestant side.
As Eliza grows up, she becomes less tractable, and when she falls in love with Joachin Andieta, a clerk in Jeremy's firm, her adoptive family is horrified. They are even more so when a now-pregnant Eliza follows her lover to California where he has gone to make his fortune in the 1849 gold rush. Along the way Eliza meets Tao Chi'en, a Chinese doctor who saves her life and becomes her closest friend. What starts out as a search for a lost love becomes, over time, the discovery of self; and by the time Eliza finally catches up with the elusive Joachin, she is no longer sure she still wants what she once wished for. Allende peoples her novel with a host of colorful secondary characters. She even takes the narrative as far afield as China, providing an intimate portrait of Tao Chi'en's past before returning to 19th-century San Francisco, where he and Eliza eventually fetch up. Readers with a taste for the epic, the picaresque, and romance that is satisfyingly complex will find them all in Daughter of Fortune. --Margaret Prior --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Allende expands her geographical boundaries in this sprawling, engrossing historical novel flavored by four culturesAEnglish, Chilean, Chinese and AmericanAand set during the 1849 California Gold Rush. The alluring tale begins in Valpara!so, Chile, with young Eliza Sommers, who was left as a baby on the doorstep of wealthy British importers Miss Rose Sommers and her prim brother, Jeremy. Now a 16-year-old, and newly pregnant, Eliza decides to follow her lover, fiery clerk Joaqu!n Andieta, when he leaves for California to make his fortune in the gold rush. Enlisting the unlikely aid of Tao Chi'en, a Chinese shipboard cook, she stows away on a ship bound for San Francisco. Tao Chi'en's own storyArichly textured and expansively toldAbegins when he is born into a peasant family and sold into slavery, where it is his good fortune to be trained as a master of acupuncture. Years later, while tending to a sailor in colonial Hong Kong, he is shanghaied and forced into service at sea. During the voyage with Eliza, Tao nurses her through a miscarriage. When they disembark, Eliza is disguised as a boy, and she spends the next four years in male attire so she may travel freely and safely. Eliza's search for Joaqu!n (rumored to have become an outlaw) is disappointing, but through an eye-opening stint as a pianist in a traveling brothel and through her charged friendship with Tao, now a sought-after healer and champion of enslaved Chinese prostitutes, Eliza finds freedom, fulfillment and maturity. Effortlessly weaving in historical background, Allende (House of the Spirits; Paula) evokes in pungent prose the great melting pot of early California and the colorful societies of Valpara!so and Canton. A gallery of secondary characters, developed early on, prove pivotal to the plot. In a book of this scope, the narrative is inevitably top-heavy in spots, and the plot wears thin toward the end, but this is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure. Major ad/promo; BOMC dual main selection; 11-city author tour. (Oct.) FYI: This book will also be released in a HarperLibros Spanish edition, Hija del la Fortuna (ISBN 0-06-019492-8).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
To my surprise the book was a totally different experience this time. Amazing how ten years can alter ones reading preferences. I could not put the book down and I have to say that it was the story that grabbed me the most, not the Characters, although I found no fault in the character development but never got too interested in anyone of them. I loved the story best. Particularly I suppose because it was a book about women.
We have Rose Sommers, who appears to be a proper young women but we find out she has a past. I found it intriguing that Rose wanted to keep this baby and dedicate her life to bringing up this child as a lady, and created all these weird untruths about how she arrived on the door step. I think both characters Rose and Eliza, show the issues that young women dealt with if they have an adventurous spirit. I got caught up in the life’s lessons that these two head strong girls were being taught their passions and compulsive behaviour not allowed in their time took away any other life choices they may eventually have wanted, one slip up at sixteen and they were tainted for life. That is what separated them from who they could have been and the reality of what they are. Rose became her brothers house keeper and Eliza chose flight. Their story also shows that there is a positive out come to the choices they make, I really enjoyed reading both their stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tangle that was created in this story. I loved the adventure of Eliza escaping and how her journey develop. What sort of young woman would she be? would she find the lover would she return home. We read that Rose suffers at loosing Elisa and wishes she had behaved differently and at the end of the Novel we read that Eliza will write to Rose, and we see that their relationship was one of love and they will be able to reunite, I really enjoyed the appreciation they had for each other even though they were apart. I felt for Joaquine’s mother left at home to die and never to know if her son was alive or not. I was left wondering if he had died early on as only one letter was ever delivered. Or was he a man that talked the talk but really once out of sight both his mother and Eliza were quickly forgotten.
Tao, was an interesting character and was a wonderful person for Eliza to grow up through and see her self and her love for Joaquine, in comparison to Lin, who was the perfect bride with her deformed feet and ill health, but was sweet and gentle and his guide through out the story. Mama Fresia, leaves after eighteen years and no one knows her name or where she lives, I thought this was extremely sad and very telling of how Rose and Jeremy lived and viewed servants even though they really were so important to them. We have read this so often in other books.
The ending leaves you up in the air, but it was in someways satisfying to be left to imagine what happens.
There were so many issues for women in this book, choices they could make, Rose on one hand never married but used her passion for her lost lover to write risqué novels. John appreciates his sister taking Elisa in and together they keep a secret from their brother Jeremy, I thought that was particularly sad for him when he found this out. So this sixteen year old secret twists the dynamics of their relationship like all secrets do.
Rose marched Elisa down to the orphanage pointing out that if she misbehaves she will end up back there. In retrospect Rose realises what a horrible thing she did, but as a young woman that took a chance at eighteen she reverted back to a less understanding form of child raring, which I thought was enlightening. Rose obviously regretted the choice she made and hoped to be able to keep control of Elisa.
I greatly enjoyed the reading of this book. I've just completed my B.A. in English, so I've read quite a few books in the last few years, and, since I also have a toddler at home, I've read many of them on audio CD or Audible recordings. This narration is one of my favorites. The reading is compelling, engaging, and accurate. By accurate, I mean that I had no trouble moving between the audio CDs and the text. Sometimes audio performances can be too slow or too fast, and I usually have to fiddle with the speed of the reading, but this reading was perfectly performed. I really wish this book were also available as an mp3 download, as it's much easier to listen to with the latest technology, but, even as a CD, it's still a worthwhile purchase!
The bottom line: If you're interested in reading this book, definitely buy the audiobook version. It's a great performance.
If you like books that are epics, you will love this book. You'll be taken to England, Chile, China, and California. You will find your heart rejoicing at times and broken at other times. The author has written a novel with historical information. I should add that she has written some very wise words to help guide ones life.
The reader, Blair Brown, for this audio book is exceptional. I have listened to hundreds of audio books, and I consider Blair Brown to be one of the best.
I should point out that this is NOT an abrided audio. I stopped listening to abridged audios long ago.