Book: The House of the Spirits

Author: Isabel Allende

Rating: 4/5

The House of the Spirits-Isabel Allende

This story spans through the three generations of the Trueba family that comes from the parish of San Sebastian. Esteban Trueba, the patriarch, is enterprising and powerful. The story begins with a poor, wretched and stoic Esteban Trueba venturing to build up a fortune for himself. On the road to success, he commits many hideous deeds while taking advantage of his position. Even then, Life treats him graciously and he becomes very successful and powerful. He marries the love of his life, Clara, who fills the emotional void in his life and becomes the lifeline of the Trueba family. As they say, “what goes around comes around.” It is through Blanca and her daughter, Alba that Life plots a scheme to get even with Esteban Trueba. How Life strikes back at Esteban Trueba, forms the rest of the story.

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Social/Historical context:

The author hasn’t mentioned it anywhere explicitly, but the social and political backdrop in the novel hints towards Chile as it was during the late 20 century when Salvador Allende was active in politics. The society explained in the novel is male dominant in which women liberalization hasn’t come into full force. Most of the females in the novel are educated and well brought up but are made to marry a money maker. Tyranny and domestic violence is also evident at some places in the novel. The suppression of the weak by the rich and powerful is another aspect of the social backdrop of the novel.

Writing Style:

The speech is primarily in third person with Esteban Trueba narrating the story documented in Clara’s diaries. Sometimes; however, the author shifts to first person in order to explain the narrator’s perspective. At a very later stage in the novel, Alba Garcia, takes the role of the narrator and carries the story to the end. The characterization is good and detailed. The author has used the elements of magical realism in this novel while describing some of the characters like Rosa and Clara. Rosa has been described as a human mermaid, and Clara can communicate with the paranormal. Communication with the spirits becomes a permanent aspect of the novel, and the author somehow has treated this as a normal phenomena. The overall mood of the novel is like that of a family drama. A couple of events inspire horror.

My Thoughts:

I liked the story as I have never read anything like this before. My interest started to fall after the matriarch's death because the story becomes too dragged after that. I enjoyed 70% of the novel for sure; for the rest 30%, I feel it could have been made shorter. Some thoughts of Isabel are really inspiring like when she describes Death as a beginning not as an end; just like Life. The novel ends with a very good message conveyed through the lives of the Truebas.

Book Reviewed by Suchandra Ganguly

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