The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

“Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change”
― Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende was born in Peru to Chilean parents and became an American citizen in 1993. Her first book, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. This book began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then she has sold more than 77 million books that have been translated into more than forty-two languages. Allende is an accomplished writer who devotes much time to human rights causes. She has also received fifteen honorary doctorates as well as more than 60 awards in over 15 countries, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Allende has been on my radar for many years, but I had never read any of her books. After talking to another librarian, I decided to read The House of the Spirits. I’ll admit it took me some time to get involved in the story, but listening to the audiobook definitely helped (it’s over 19 hours though)! Let’s talk about this sweeping family generational novel.

Spanning four generations, The House of the Spirits weaves a story of triumphs and tragedies and all the small moments in-between. The patriarch of the family, Esteban, is a very proud man. His volatile attitude sets his tennants and family on edge. Over his entire life, Estaban’s political ambitions defined his actions and behaviors. His ambitions and explosive behavior are only softened by his deep love of his wife Clara. Clara is a delicate woman with a mysterious connection to the spirit world. Living in a world of her own, Clara floats through life, managing the family, their friends, and the two properties they rotate between.

Clara and Estaban have three children: one girl and two boys. Their eldest daughter Blanca proves to be a headache to her father when she starts a forbidden love affair with a man she has known since she was a small child. Estaban is vehemently against their relationship, threatening her lover with bodily harm. The result of their union is his granddaughter Alba. He adores her. She is a beautiful child, who proves to be just as strong-willed as her grandfather. Alba’s beliefs vary greatly from her elder family members. As she grows older, Alba begins to explore revolutionary ideas, which she introduces to her family in the hope that their beliefs will change.

This novel covers multiple individuals in the Trueba family, even venturing back to Esteban and Clara’s parents and various other family members. This is a sweeping generational family saga full of eccentric characters. In addition to learning about the family members, readers learn about the area’s history, politics, and the forces of nature behind the actions of others.

This book is also available in the following format:

“The point was not to die, since death came anyway, but to survive, which would be a miracle.”
― Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

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