Top positive review
A BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN HISTORICAL NOVEL
on August 22, 2013
INÉS OF MY SOUL REVIEW
INÉS OF MY SOUL is my first reading of Isabel Allende and it is an eye opener. Allende writes with simple elegance and intriguing imagery, traits I find in short supply in modern literature. Her characterizations are spot on and her scene-setting is flawless. Reading this book will transport you to a time of conflict and cultural dissensions with the effortlessness great writers seem to possess. You will actually sense the time, place, and experiences of sixteenth century Chile and the beginning of the Spanish occupation of the Americas.
Allende describes her work as "realistic literature," inspired by her extraordinary life, her knowledge and fascination with the people of South America, and her ability to transform historical events into images that ring vibrantly in her readers. Inés Suárez is a remarkable heroine, a conquistadora of earthy desires and indomitable strength who never hesitates to perform whatever task is needed to assist in the building of a nation.
The savage natives, already suffering from earlier atrocities from the Spaniards, are fiercely determined to turn aside the invaders. It is astonishing that the intruders, greatly outnumbered, can withstand the privations of the land, the malicious infighting of their leaders, and the horrendous encounters with natives who have no fear and offer no quarter in their vicious skirmishes. The conquistadors, with their armor, heavy swords, and ancient muskets have an advantage but face relentless hordes of natives who are relentless with their unorthodox tactics.
I found Allende's writing to be elegant and highly tasteful, only to be surprised by brief crude descriptions of various sexual situations and animal parts. Inés had lusty cravings, bestowing her sexual favors readily to her husbands and lovers. She was proud of her ability to deny such pleasure to those not entitled, although she admitted allowing her eyes to stray to forbidden places on the naked native men. To those who would attempt to violate her, the iron skillet, knife, or knee was their reward. Inéz speaking of soldiers having "visions of roast pig with an apple in its mouth and a carrot up its a**," jolted me a little, although the translator might have not have been able to find a less jarring rendering.
Allende's listing of reference material used to authenticate the historical facts behind some almost unbelievable information in her book are from Spanish and Chilean sources, unreadable to me and therefore impossible to authenticate. Given Allende's reputation and credibility, I find no need to read them. I don't read most English sources for other books I read either; just tallying up the numbers is good enough for me.
I highly recommend this engaging book. As time permits, I will be checking out her other 20 or so books, looking for another gem.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES