I’ve been avoiding reading anything by Isabel Allende for years. I’m not sure there’s an actual reason for this, it just never happened that I picked up one of her books. I’m really glad I finally did. The House of the Spirits was the first book I finished this year and I loved it.
It’s set in Chile, a country I admit I knew little about, and it revolves around various members of one rather strange family. Through the years, we follow their lives, witness them hurting or helping each other, see how their actions unwillingly affect people who come years later.
This is very much an epic novel. Each chapter focuses on a different family member and the whole book spans decades, starting from Rosa, the green-haired goddess and ending with Blanca, the young political activist. The changing country is the background for all the family drama as the main social, political and economic events of 20th century Chile irreversibly change the characters’ lives.
It is beautifully written, the descriptions for the chilean countryside are amazing. The writing is often blunt, there are a lot of unpleasant events taking place in the book and a few times I was a bit shocked and disturbed because Allende can make it clear just how devastating and violent these are. The characters are flawed, sometimes they are really hard to like, but they feel real and their actions seem to stay true to who they are.
So, I am now very keen to read more by this author and I’m a bit upset it took me so long to get to it. This book is highly recommended and I think anyone who’s been putting off reading Isabel Allende books should hurry up and do it. (Michelle, I’m looking at you)