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The first of several fine books by this great writer
on January 7, 2015
I think Isabel Allende is one of the greatest writers of the past half century, and this well-known book is an excellent example of that assessment. In a style that draws on the Latin American "magical realism" school, Allende tells the story of the Trueba family as metaphor for the history of Chile through the 20th century, up to the time of the American-backed Pinochet coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende (a cousin of Isabel Allende) in 1973. She creates a family of compelling, sometimes quirky, sometimes tragic figures who each represent a thread of Chilean society as it evolved from a frontier setting into one of the more advanced nations of Latin America. The conflicts among family members mirror those of the different segments of the Chilean population, with the linked themes of development and destruction creating constant tension over a period of 70 years.
Despite what I have written above, this is not some polemic on economics and sociology. It is a beautifully written, well-translated, character-driven novel that will hold your attention right to the end. As with other books by Allende that I have read, she is a master of the sweeping narrative that makes you see the larger picture through the eyes of specific characters. Her ability to describe people and places is unmatched - an enchanting and colorful style without being overwrought.
"The House of the Spirits" was Allende's first major work, but it already showed her ability to spin a yarn that will keep reader engaged right up to the end.