Author: Isabel Allende
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 16th century / South American)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (7/1/2007)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: The life of a 16th century Spanish girl, who rose from poverty to riches following the conquistadors of Chile.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: Yes but it's not my favorite among the various editions (the 2006 hardcover is stunning).
I'm reminded of...: Laura Esquivel, Sandra Gulland
First line: I am Inés Suárez, a townswoman of the loyal city of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura in the kingdom of Chile, writing in the year of Our Lord 1580.
Did... I feel a bit uncomfortable with the wholly pro-conquistador plot line?: YES, but the perk of these P.S. editions is the extras. This book includes an NPR interview with Isabel Allende who talks about keeping Inés' voice authentic to the era and having to, essentially 'choose sides'. It helped me with my discomfort
Did... I find some unexpected parallels with other novels set during wartime?: YES. Much like Sadie Jones' Small Wars (which I read earlier this year), this historical novel is about relationships and love but also about war, violence, and the impact of torture on those using it.
Is... there a free ebook of it available?: YES. As of today, my Goodreads page for this edition offers a read it now/download ebook option for it, so I'd recommend logging into Goodreads today and downloading this if you can. It's so worth it!
Why did I get this book?: Allende is a master of historical fiction and I love books with strong, crazy, interesting, fascinating narrators.
Review: Inés Suárez is a heroine that will stick with me for a long time. At the book's opening, she estimates she's about seventy years old and is going to soon die. In the rambling way of someone working through their memories, distracted at times by side stories and the need to unburden her soul, Inés' story unfolds.
Born to an ordinary Spanish family, she and her childhood lover are caught up in the adventures of the Americas and the untold riches any man can claim. She goes to join him after he leaves and finds herself a key player in the exploration and conquest of Chile, the last untamed regions of South America. She finds true love, comfortable love, witnesses the founding of a nation, and makes a ton of empanadas.
I'm incredibly picky about my historical heroines sounding overly modern, especially if they're social rebels who are preternaturally gorgeous. In Allende's quite competent hands, Inés manages to be both stubborn, pig-headed, willful, pretty, and smart without sounding too perfect or too talented. As a narrator, she has the distance of an old woman looking back on what turned out to be a rather momentous life, and so she qualifies and annotates and even rambles and repeats herself. She's fascinating and charming, and I was immediately sucked in to her story.
This is an unusual era and setting for historical novels (if one doesn't read a lot of Allende) and so I recommend it to all historical fiction fans. If you're new to Allende, this is a fantastic starter novel -- great story, great narrator -- and the extras at the end provide a lovely introduction to Allende and her other works.
GIVEAWAY! This blog tour is for the paperback release of Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea and I'm giving away a copy of it to one lucky reader! Ends 5/20, US/CA readers only. Just leave your name and email address for a chance to be entered. For reviews and a description of Island Beneath the Sea, just check out the blog tour webpage. (It looks good!)