This is the most moving, emotional family saga I've ever read. Allende blends magic, family, and politics to create the story of the Truebas, a family you'll not soon forget. From the premonitions and predictions of the matriarch, Clara, to the passionate love of Blanca that has burned since childhood, to the idealistic innocence and simple beauty of Alba, you'll feel for these women and what they go through in life. The same holds for the men - you'll cry for Jaime, especially.
Allende keeps this timeless by refraining from the addition of specifics, instead keeping to the generals (i.e. The Candidate, The President, The Poet, etc.).
This is an example of superior writing, a superior plot, and superior characters. Literature doesn't get any better than this.
The House of Spirits is probably Allende's most famous and important book. In it, she chronicles the life of a family, as the patriarch grows from a child to an elder, with the world changing all around him while he tries to keep it the same. Through the lenses of the Trueba family, we follow the portion of Chilean history that eventually leads to the 1973 coup. Of course, the author is niece of Salvador Allende, the socialist president democratically elected that was removed from power and killed by Pinochet.
The book is based on clashes; old versus young, communists vs conservatives, landlords vs tenants. As the story unfolds, we view the extremist positions that each side takes: landlords attacking tenants, conservatives attacking communists, and vice versa. From the polarization of positions emerges a military dictatorship that no one wanted, but that was a product of the system setup by polarization.
In the end, the distinctions that originally separated young from old, conservatives from communists, are removed, as both sides realize the futility of their disputes in the face on an authoritarian regime.
Although this book is set in Latin America, in an unnamed country, it is clearly supposed to be Chile, home of the author Isabel Allende. One of the main portions of the book deals with the military overthrow of the government, Ms. Allende's uncle was Salvadore Allende, who was murdered in such a coup. The story focuses on the family of Esteban Trueba, who is engaged to the beautiful Rosa, who dies before their marriage. Esteban then courts and marries Rosa's sister Clara, a clairvoyant and telekinetic, who talks to the sprits that roam through their home. Esteban is the patron of Tres Marias, the family plantation, that he rebuilds into a wealthy estate. We follow the lives of this family through about seventy years of hard times and prosperity, viewing the lives of the children and grandchildren of Esteban, that become intertwined with the politics of the country. Although the writing in this book was beautiful, at times the story was very uninvolving. Part of that stems from the fact that Esteban Tureba is a bullying autocrat, a character so unsympathetic that at times it was difficult to read many of the scenes he was involved in. The women alternated between spineless and strong, and although their paranormal abilities are taken for granted, there doesn't seem to be any purpose to them throughout the book, except for foretelling future events, a practice that becomes a bit tiresome over the course of the book. For me the story finally comes alive in the last third, when Esteban's granddaughter is born, and the political upheavals begin to take center stage. At this point in the book I was very involved in the tale and in knowing the outcome. For that reason, and the writing this book garners a bit higher grade than I originally planned on.
this was an interesting read. i read it as part of my personal challenge to read 10 banned books this year that i hadn't previously read. choosing this one was a good choice. it has social/class clashes, political uprisings, love, romance, war... a little bit of everything, really.
Immerse myself in a foreign culture, learn some political history and enjoy a romance all in one sitting? My favorite kind of book!