The House of the Spirits | Quick Take Review

The House of the Spirits | Isabel Allende

Published: January 2 1982

Format: Paperback

Tags: Latin America, Fiction, Magical Realism, Generational

| Synopsis from the Publisher |

Chilean writer Isabel Allende’s classic novel is both a richly symbolic family saga and the riveting story of an unnamed Latin American country’s turbulent history.

In a triumph of magic realism, Allende constructs a spirit-ridden world and fills it with colorful and all-too-human inhabitants. The Trueba family’s passions, struggles, and secrets span three generations and a century of violent social change, culminating in a crisis that brings the proud and tyrannical patriarch and his beloved granddaughter to opposite sides of the barricades. Against a backdrop of revolution and counterrevolution, Allende brings to life a family whose private bonds of love and hatred are more complex and enduring than the political allegiances that set them at odds. The House of the Spirits not only brings another nation’s history thrillingly to life, but also makes its people’s joys and anguishes wholly our own.

Keywords to describe this book: slow-paced, family-oriented, historical details

TW: Abortion, Domestic Abuse, Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Violence, Torture, Minor Pedophilia

~My Thoughts~

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally read House of the Spirits. I’ve heard so many great things not just about this book, but about Allende herself. My reading habits have not often ventured into Latin American literature, so I was really excited to finally be reading what is considered one of the best books/authors to come from this region.

I am astounded by the details and the intricacy of this story. Allende’s writing is masterful and it’s shocking to know this was her debut novel. I wish I loved the characters more, but sadly most of them were just so out there that it was hard for me to connect with them. This was in-part due to the magical-realism factor in this book. Many characters had other-worldly powers, but it was only minorly questioned, either due to the culture of the area or because most characters seemed unfazed by magic. Perhaps because I’m not the biggest fan of magical-realism kept me from truly feeling immersed in the story or connecting with the characters. Another reason, though, for my disconnect is because so many of the characters were forgiving of (to me) unforgivable actions.

I was continually disturbed by how easily the women of this story forgive the violence and horrors that male characters (specifically one character) continued to wreak on them when they are so often portrayed as strong women with conviction. It is also hard to digest that the one character I dislike above all continued to live throughout the story and, despite his despicableness, gets a peaceful, somewhat happy ending. 

I’ve also been learning that family sagas are just not my thing. Occasionally I can get into it, but overall it’s hard for me to get excited about generation after generation of one family. And as I’ve said, I’m not the biggest fan of magical realism, but this story is alright. I accepted it because it was embraced fully and Allende committed to it. I just wish that I cared more about the characters themselves so that I could rate this book higher. 

Ultimately, I wouldn’t rule it out as a book I’d recommend, I would just make sure the person I’m recommending it to enjoys the genre more than I do.

Thoughts & Thanks!

Anyone planning on reading this book? Yea/Nay? Let me know if you’ve read it, want to read it, or have read something similar that you can recommend me!

And, as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

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