There is so much that Isabel Allende weaves into her writing, it is simply astounding. There is so much history, allegory, and personal stakes woven into the story of one family that it is almost impossible to know where to start. How have I not read this before? Why the holy fucking hell did I have to read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis when this existed in the world. I COULD HAVE DEMONSTRATED THE STUDY OF LITERARY WORKS IN CONTEXT THROUGH THE STUDY OF WORKS IN TRANSLATION SO MUCH BETTER WITH THIS THAN THAT TRIPE. I feel like my International Baccalaureate teachers went with Kiss of the Spiderwoman because it was short and needed something translated from another language. C’MON THIS WORK IS ALL ABOUT CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS, YOU DAMN IB TEACHERS OF MINE.
Ok, I promise to calm down and write a coherent review. I hate Kafka a lot, guys. And I loved this.
From Goodreads, here’s the synopsis:
Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future. The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.
I took a long time to read this book not because it bored me, but because each paragraph, each page, and each chapter need time to be digested and understood. This wasn’t a novel that I could power through, or skim, or even wanted to. This is a book that needed and deserved to be savored. Tracing nearly a hundred years of the life of a family, Allende unpacks the various forces that cause the sweeping and epic changes of a country, and the sorrows and triumphs of a family.
A lot is written about the magical realism aspects of Allende’s writing here. The book’s characters literally see ghosts and interact with the spirit world. But… it’s just another aspect of the book, the same as not referring to internationally recognizable persons by names and instead using titles. It’s all in the world that Allende is building, and feels as normal as anything else, in the best possible way. It’s not played for cheap thrills, it’s all just part and parcel of how these characters interact with their world, which is also our world.
I am so glad that the Read Harder Challenge this year included a task that fit this one, which pulled it up my to read list and onto this year’s plate.