Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of Spirits is the first of many popular novels written by Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, and the second I have read from her.  It is epic in its conception.  Set in an unnamed South American country the novel spans four generations of the Trueba and del Valle families.

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.


  1. I've only read one other Allende novel (Daughter of Fortune) which I loved, and was really sad when it ended, I just kept wanting to read on and on. I haven't got around to reading another one of her novels yet, but it sounds like this would be another great one.

  2. Have you read Hundred years of Solitude?

    These two books are like brother and sister :)

    PS. I am reading the same book as you right now! :)

  3. There seems to be Allede fever going around. This is one of the third or fourth Allende books I've seen reviewed in the past month or so. I feel like I'm getting a message to read her books, which I've not yet done.

  4. Mummazappa - the other novel by Allende I have read is Eva Luna, another great read. Thanks for mentioning Daughter of Fortune, I will keep an eye out for it.

    Kinga Bee - I have not read that one yet, infact I have not read nearly enough of the South American authors.

    Jenners - she has a distinct, long sentenced, robust style that I think readers would love or find over the top. I really enjoy her books.

  5. This is one of those books that I know I will love and haven't read yet. Must read faster!


Comments are very welcome.