Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende  496 pp.

Somehow, after reading many of Allende's books, and recently seeing her in person, I never read the novel that started it all. This story of multiple generations of one family in an unnamed South American country that is a thinly disguised Chile, covers love, loss, turbulence, and the horrors of a revolution and dictatorship. Esteban Trueba is the proud, stubborn patriarch of the family. His beloved wife Clara is a beautiful, mystical being, not quite of this world. He is unable to understand why his children are so different from him but Clara, who sees and talks to spirits, understands all. When the revolution comes, Esteban is horrified that the "communists" have taken over and uses his position as a senator in the previous regime to help engineer the military coup that takes down the new regime and causes the death and / or torture of his children and his granddaughter Alba. Allende bases the political turmoil on the election of her cousin Salvador Allende, to the Presidency of Chile  and the subsequent coup that put General Augusto Pinochet in power, essentially as dictator. This is a wonderfully creative and detailed story, the first of many by Allende. As much as I like it, I'm still sticking with my opinion that Portrait in Sepia is her best.

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