Author: Isabel Allende
Genre: Classics, Magical Realism
Blurb: 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.
Me: I have always had a fascination and a love for magical realism. Isabel Allende knocks it out of the park with this book combining freedom, injustice, women, family, and a pinch of magic.
The Ups: I do think that for a reader who might be unfamiliar with magical realism, the structure and language might be unexpected or strange (not that I have a ton of experience with those books, either haha). But nevertheless, it is so easy to lose yourself in the immense family history and the strange yet familiar lives of the characters. Magic and unexplainable happenings are treated normally, and talked about almost conversationally with the reader. The small details that pop up later in the novel kept me excited and entranced throughout reading.
For this novel especially, it seems like that saying of characters being the most important piece of any story comes true. I fell in love with every single one of the characters; even the ones I detested, they were still so well-developed and alive. In the process of reading the book that covers the expanse of multiple generations, it felt like I was living along with the characters, as I spent enough time with all of them that when they passed away, or disappeared, or experienced sorrow, I would feel that loss as deeply as the characters did. Because there was so much loss (and so much love), it was difficult to not feel like I was living within the pages.
Comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez are inevitable, and though I don't recall very much about One Hundred Years of Solitude, the revolving of The House of the Spirits around women really set it apart. Every single woman that passed through the house was exquisitely herself, incredibly flawed, and yet so resilient. I loved the variation of girls in the generations- Nivea, an ardent feminist at a time where no one listened, Clara, eerily clairvoyant, careless, and detached from traditional gender roles, Blanca, a strong yet scared woman, and Alba, fierce, loving, and the embodiment of hope. They played such different parts, and not all of their relationships, even with each other, were easy. But the household still rested upon their strength and love.
I also LOVED the ending. The book is long, and a bit difficult to work through, but the ending made up for it. SUCH gorgeous language- and the circular ending <3.
The Downs: Being the clueless person I am, I was entirely unaware about any political conflicts in Chilean history, and couldn't place any of these events in any particular time period or area. That made me feel a little lost at times, because political and social conflicts do play such a large part of the novel, but I don't think it inhibited any experiences of the novel.
In general, stories that span over large periods of time and tell multiple, intricate stories take a while to process and work through. So the novel was not a quick read, or a light one- it definitely required time and thought, and I did feel myself disengaging from the story sometimes.
But overall, a beautiful classic with incredible characters and an ambitious structure.
"At times I feel as if I had lived all this before and that I have already written these very words, but I know it was not I: it was another woman, who kept her notebooks so that one day I could use them. I write, she wrote, that memory is fragile and the space of a single life is brief, passing so quickly that we never get a chance to see the relationship between events; we cannot gauge the consequences of our acts, and we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future..."
Rating: 4 kisses!