Sunday, May 22, 2011
Review: The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The novel begins with the del Valles and the story of two beautiful sisters, Rosa and Clara. Rosa is tragically killed when mistakenly poisoned. The story then follows her fiance, the very troubled Esteban Trueba, as he builds his life around accumulating power and vengeance. He marries Rosa's sister Clara and has three children. Esteban's furious and unforgiving nature shapes the lives of all in the family.
The novel also traces social changes in this South American society as colonialism is replaced by socialism and ultimately a military coup which has disastrous consequences for the whole family.
I really enjoy Allende's language and writing style. She writes long languid sentences that turn into very long paragraphs. The sentences draw you into the drama and emotion of the family's story. She writes with a real earthiness or lust for life. The women in the novel carry most of the story and most of the readers sympathy. Clara, is the dominant force in her family, despite the fact that her husband Esteban is ferocious in his appetites and lust for power. Clara has clairvoyant and telekinetic powers. She opens the doors of their luxurious home to a host of spiritual, artistic and free thinking types. Her many charitable works and causes form a legacy that her daughter and granddaughter continue.
The novel does seem a bit long at times, but while encompassing so many lives, it remains perfectly coherent. All of the characters are distinctive and are developed believably. The ending is dramatic, very moving, and for me, more than made up for, what felt like at times, too many pages. I will continue to work my way through as many Allende novels as I can. She is an imaginative storyteller whose writing is beautiful and passionate.