The House of the Spirits- Isabel Allende

If you try to look up best books about Chile, Isabel Allende and The House of the Spirits immediately pops up for the best reads. Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer and one of the most successful Spanish-language authors. Her books, including The House of the Spirits, have themes of magical realism- very similar to the structure of Everything is Illuminated.

The House of Spirits follows three generations of women in a family. It begins with Clara, who as a child stands out by having clairvoyant powers. It follows her as she grows up, marries and has her own family including a daughter named Blanca. Blanca, who doesn’t see a difference between the people her affluent family mingles with and the workers her father employs on the hacienda. This leads her to not only befriend a young by, but fall in love with him and ultimately get pregnant with a baby girl. Alba then enters the story and has her own journey which includes falling in love but also being a political activist while Chile’s politics were becoming increasingly tumultuous.

Although the book follows the three women’s experiences, there are so many other political, social, and economical themes which are consistently weaved throughout. Of course of the most obvious is the political turmoil that Blanca, Alba, and Esteban (main male character and husband/father/grandfather) face. But this turmoil, which is based on the real turmoil Chile has gone through is just the tip. Allende includes so many other issues like slavery through haciendas, income inequality, women’s rights, sexual assault/rape, homosexuality, alcoholism, abortion, healthcare, and democracy. The way Allende weaves each of these components in through different characters and/or experiences is absolutely fascinating. It made me think that some of the problems that Chile was facing in the 1900s aren’t all different than the problems the United States faces now. It doesn’t matter the time or the place —humans all over are facing the same issues.

I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in Chile, South America, magical realism, or just looking for a good book. I wish I was fluent in Spanish and had the ability to read The House of the Spirits in its most real form. I bet the story was even more beautiful and fascinating.

We’ll be heading north to another Spanish speaking country to read a book that will cross over into my love for true crime. I’m so excited!!

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