The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

Book #276
Reviewer: Tall, Short & Tiny

The House of the SpiritsMany years ago, on a whim, I picked The House of the Spirits off a bookshelf and bought it, with no knowledge of the author and having heard nothing of the book. What was a punt turned out to be a brilliant decision, as I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and have since read more of Allende’s work.

I love her magical, poetic style, and her ability to weave intricate relationships between characters. Her characters are all beautifully drawn; the reader is pulled into their world, and the imagination is set alight. I do wonder how this would read in Allende’s natural Spanish, and hope that none of the musicality has been lost in translation.

The House of the Spirits is a truly magical story, set in Chile, about four generations of the Trueba family. It is a story about class inequality, family and fate, with numerous plot twists and allusions to the political and social struggles in Chile’s past. It is magical and ethereal, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Clara is the main female figure in the novel. She is a clairvoyant and telekinetic, rather vague and impractical in an everyday sense, but the backbone of her family. She marries Esteban, one of the story’s narrators; he becomes involved in politics and their relationship is a volatile one. The rest of the family stem from these two.

I must give special mention to Clara’s sister, Rosa the Beautiful. She is exceptionally, ethereally beautiful, with transparent skin, yellow eyes, and green hair. She is described as mermaid-like; in any other novel, this might seem strange and detract from the story, but Allende is very skilled at building layer upon layer of “normal” characters, until each quirk simply becomes normal too.

This is a book I have lent to so many people with no hesitation, and it has been returned with excited sighs. I give The House of the Spirits 4 out of 5 stars.

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