Tuesday, June 16, 2009

30 Second Review - Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits"

Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits" picked me up from it's first words and would not set me down until decades later, only after its characters lived out their lives, grew rich, then poor, survived wars and atrocities, had children and only after their children and grandchildren did the same. The book was irresistible. Sometimes tedious, but generally engrossing, fascinating and interwoven with the same brand of magic that broke my heart each time I completed a novel by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, this novel shares with "100 Years of Solitude" the same uncanny ability to at once exist in the past and present, but never in the present. Like in "Solitude," Allende mentions, alludes and flat out states events that are not to happen for a hundred pages, but it never seems like a spoiler or as though she is giving anything away. Instead, the richness of the words that lead from point A to point B sustain the novel and its characters and the actual order of events is less important.

Overall, the book is far less dense and is much softer than Marquez' epic first novel and I can not help but say it is more feminine. This novel, Allende's first, is nonetheless written with the same breath as "100 Years of Solitude", and even though it stands alone with a multitude of its own merits and is of wondrous quality, the structure, the magic woven into it, the warm light that suffuses even its darkest pages and the way it cycles onto itself can not help but contribute to this comparison. Not to mention its story - that of several generations of a single family whose country is never named, but is an undeniable allegory for Chile.

A complex and convoluted story, "The House of the Spirits" is a pleasant, refreshing and rewarding read.

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