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Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, May 2, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 517 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061120251
  • ASIN: B005Q5TVTK
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (517 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is the first Isabelle Allende book I've read, but it won't be the last. Her characters are absolutely superb - even the minor players are rich in detail and give wonderful depth to the story. Eliza is a strong character who refuses to follow convention, only wanting to follow her heart. I wasn't just reading this story...I was there! I was growing up as a 'lady' with a steel rod in my back...I was aboard a rolling ship heading towards my lost love...My heart cried daily on the journey I was undertaking...I was overjoyed to meet so many wonderful people...and in the end, I smiled in agreement, wiped away a tear, and closed the book. Don't miss it.
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Format: Hardcover
Even though I am one of Isabel Allende's biggest fans, I have to admit that this is probably not her finest work. I would have to agree with other readers - the end is rather abrupt. I have finished every other book Ms. Allende has written feeling like all my questions and concerns about her characters were answered. Her stories are always complete - I guarantee you will walk away saying to yourself "That was perfect - there is nothing more to know" but Daughter of Fortune doesn't quite live up to that, even though it is a wonderful story.
If anyone is thinking about reading one of Ms. Allende's books and hasn't already read one in the past, PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and read her books in order of publication! When you get to her incomparable memoir, Paula, you will really appreciate how Ms. Allende came up with all her wonderful stories. While Eva Luna is probably my favorite work of fiction, Paula is just in a class all by itself - but you really need to be familiar with Ms. Allende's previous work to really appreciate all that is in Paula.
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Format: Hardcover
I am close to the age of Isabel Allende and she always has the power to evoke strong memories of my childhood in Chile. Her writing is vivid and never disappointing, and is, as well, exceptionally well translated into English. Daughter of Fortune is written with Allende's usual flair and has the added advantage of spotlighting an interesting chapter of history involving the many Chilean treasure seekers during the San Francisco Gold Rush.
However,in this case, Allende's unravelling of the plot leaves too many knots intact at the end. Even allowing for the mysteries of magical realism, I have the feeling that the editors of a less well established author would never let her get away with that; the reader is left with the gnawing feeling that Allende tired of her plot: after tossing in several random clues, the author grew bored, lost focus, and dropped the story abruptly.
Since Allende is such a wonderful writer, I would add my voice to those of other readers who would like her to alleviate our frustration by presenting us with a satisfying sequel.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll start by saying that I purchased this book prior to it being selected by Oprah's book club, and didn't get around to reading it until Oprah had added it to her list. I tend to not enjoy the books Oprah chooses - I am not into the touchy-feely stuff she tends to gravitate towards. So, when she added it to her list, I lost my desire to read it. A few days ago, for some inexplicable reason, I took it off the shelf and started to read...and read and read...I couldn't put it down! Isabel Allende is a gifted writer. She posesses the rare ability to manage several plots, weave characters in and out of storylines, and create vivid imagery without overburdoning the reader or overcomplicating the story. I don't want to get into reviewing the plot or characters - what you need to know is that the characters are extremely well developed and tangible, the story is unpredictable (it twists just when you think it won't) and Allende's writing is beautiful. She chooses lovely words, builds tremendous depth into her characters, and draws the reader into the story with her vivid descriptions of events. The story is also well researched, and includes fascinating background information on Victorian English Society, life in Chile during the mid-1800s, life in China during that era, seafarers, and the California Gold Rush. It is so refreshing to see that an author can write a gripping story that also includes factual historical information. Allende has done her homework. Daughter of Fortune is a wonderful read.
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Format: Hardcover
When I read the first line of "Daughter of Fortune" I had no qualms weather I should buy it or not. She describes the Anglo-saxon world, South American world and Chinese world with such vivacity it feels as though she is actually writing an autobiography. The variation of moods present in the novel ensure excitment, and a sense of guilt came over me when ever I put it down. My first Isabelle Allende, I will now read her earlier works with dedication. In short it's a book I thoroughly recomend, and wish there where more like them.
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Format: Hardcover
This was the first book I've read by Allende and I've since ordered other books by her. Yes I admit I was introduced to her by Oprah and rate this as one of Oprah's better picks. Allende has a great way of dropping subtle hints throughout the book. I love when an author has the ability to take you into a foreign country and make you feel as if you've lived there forever. While others have posted that the characters could have been better developed, I felt just the opposite. I think Allende was able to get across just what Eliza was feeling and what motivated her. I do agree that there were a lot of loose ends and probably the author wanted it this way. I wonder about the possibility of Joaquin and Eliza possibly being brother and sister causing Joaquin to flee to California; I wonder if Tao and Eliza ever married; I wonder what happened when Rose arrived in California....and I'm sure this is just what Allende wants us to wonder about. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes true and believable characters in a setting far removed from the usual.
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