Sunday, May 27, 2007

The House of the Spirits

The last few weeks of my life have been tumultuous and so I found myself trying to escape my thoughts, to simply not harp on what plagued me 24/7. I decided a novel was just the thing to help me out, and after a trip to the bookstore, I selected Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits.

I'd never read Allende before, and was pleased to discover that this book interesting in form, style, and content. The novel follows several generations of the Trueba family, who live in an unnamed country in South America. There are three different types of narration:

-an omniscient third person, that details thoughts, habits, and actions of various family members
- a first person account by the family's patriarch, Esteban Trueba
- a mystery first person narrator whose identity is not revealed until late in the novel.

The various narrations occur in intermittent sections that had no pattern to them that I could see. Although the POV switches took a minute to get used to, they provide a richly complex picture of the Trueba family and of the political landscape of the unnamed country, which bears a certain resemblance to Chile (Isabel's uncle, Salvador Allende, was the first socialist president elected there). The book moves through capitalism, socialism, and fascism, representing advantages and disadvantages to each form of government, and Allende doesn't shy away from violence when it is necessary to the story.

I think Allende is truly a Fringey writer -- the political and the experimental come together organically in her work, and in this interview on her website, in which she explains that she likes being mainstream and considers herself a strong feminist!

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits: highly recommended summer reading!

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