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Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
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Daughter of Fortune (1999)

by Isabel Allende

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English (122)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (3)  Lithuanian (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (139)
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A wonderful and engaging story, would recommend for anyone who likes the Allende style of writing. Like the other Allende books I've read (aside from Paula) this book is one that really created another world for me to get into. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
I really wanted to love this book. I have heard great things about Allende's writing and just recently seen this getting 5 star ratings... so what happened? I think I am out of tune with the current writing style -- I know that the saying is "show don't tell" but I found myself several times while listening to this audiobook wishing Allende wouldn't show but just tell me! For example, at one point Eliza bets her last few coins on a contest between a bear and a bull. She loses but the fight between the two animals is described in great detail -- too much detail in my opinion. I understand that these were brutal times and that this is a brutal sport - I don't need to hear about how the bear ripped the snout off the bull. That is just padding & disgusting padding at that.

The book also suffered for me because I didn't find Eliza very believable. Nor her 'mother' Rose for that matter. I was taken aback near the beginning of the story by Rose taking Eliza as a young child to the orphanage & threatening to dump her there if she didn't stop complaining and do her piano lessons!! And there is no governess or tutor -- how is Eliza supposed to be learning anything other than what she learns from the Chilean housekeeper? So a big section of the plot didn't work for me later on when Rose is supposed to be so heartbroken that Eliza has run away. And then neither she nor Jeremy knew the housekeeper's last name after 18 years! Even before that, when Rose is trying to find her a husband, it didn't seem reasonable that she didn't talk to Eliza about it at all.

The idea of telling a tale of the California gold rush from the perspective of the underclasses (women and non-white immigrants) is a good one. But I was disappointed to see the trite stereotype of the prostitute with the heart of gold as one of the main secondary female characters. Granted she is described as a "man trapped in a woman's body" and over 6 feet tall but still... The best parts for me were those involving Tao Chi'en. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jan 28, 2016 |
I put off reading this for a long time because I had heard that Allende writes magical realism, a genre that does not usually agree with me. When I did finally read it, I was surprised to find that this novel doesn't match my conception of what "magical realism" is. Perhaps it is a new use for the term: fiction that is realistic but nevertheless magically transports we readers to another time and place, and installs us completely in the head of the protagonist.

Eliza is discovered as an infant abandoned on the doorstep of a British brother and sister living in Valparaiso, Chile. Over the objections of her straitlaced brother, Rose Sommers--a headstrong, independent woman who says that the best thing about marriage is "becoming a widow"--adopts and raises the child, but keeps her at an arm's length. When Eliza is sixteen, she meets Joaquin Andieta, an idealistic and penniless poet, and she falls headlong into the uncritical passion of first love. Just then, the Gold Rush begins in California, and Andieta disappears from Eliza's life to seek his fortune there. When she learns she is pregnant, Eliza decides to track down her lover. With the help of a Chinese physician who came over on her uncle's ship, Tao Chi'en, she stows away in the hold of a ship bound for San Francisco, where she becomes very ill. During that miserable voyage, Eliza experiences a rebirth, and she emerges from the ship into daylight as someone completely new and without identity, disembarking into a city that is also brand new and making itself into something unique and purely American. The rest of the story reveals how Eliza rebuilds her identity while searching for her lover. She dons a series of disguises until finally she is able to re-emerge as herself, a woman not defined by the strictures of her day but constructed from within.

Set against the backdrop of the mad rush to California in search of gold, Allende reveals history through the eyes of the people who lived it but don't usually get to tell the story: women and non-whites. She creates a diverse and three-dimensional world that feels both real and different from the stories we usually get to hear. Eliza's journey of self-discovery absolutely swept me away. ( )
  sturlington | Jan 21, 2016 |
Loved it. But it seemed to end very abruptly. LIke she tired of the story and just wound it up. I wanted to know what happens next and there is no next. ( )
  Alphawoman | Jan 17, 2016 |
Set in an era of expansion and colonialism, Daughter of Fortune, tells the story of Eliza Sommers. Found orphaned on the doorstep of the Sommers home in Valparaiso, Chile, Eliza was raised both as one of their own and one who was not. Miss Rose treated her as a favorite pet, but would then just as suddenly forget the child who was just as happy to play on the porch with the hens. When the California gold rush of 1849 struck, Eliza was a young lady deeply in love with a man, who like so many others found himself on a ship bound for California, seduced by the siren song of gold. Desperate to get him back she followed, in hopes of finding him in that vast and untamed land.

The above summary almost makes this novel sound trite. It iss not. Rather it is a novel of self-discovery and adventure. Eliza's journey was arduous, but it also shaped her into the woman she would become. There was a subplot at the beginning of the story that I thought was unnecessarily lengthy, though it was well written and helped to provide a backdrop to Eliza's childhood and introduces to Miss Rose and both her uncles. There was another revelation two a red the end that I wasn't expecting, though in retrospect I probably should have. The ending was left a little ambiguous, which bothered me a bit at first, but with distance is less of a problem. As an author Allende is generally lumped in with other Latin American authors with a tendency towards magical realism, but I found that to be a nearly non-existent factor in this novel. This was my first novel by Allende and while I didn't love, it, I enjoyed it enough to read more by her.

I listened to an audio version read by Blair Brown. She was a decent reader but I found her accents, particularly her English accents troublesome. Miss Rose, Eliza, Jacob, Jeremy, and John all sounded pretty much the same. Her Spanish accents were more clearly defined, but still not great. I would recommend that if anyone has plans to read this book that they stick with the print version. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
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Everyone is born with some special talent, and Eliza Sommers discovered early on that she had two: a good sense of smell and a good memory.
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Svarbiausia yra tai, kaip gyveni šiame pasaulyje, o ne tai, kaip į jį atėjai; Sakė, jog žinios be išminties neturi vertės, ir nėra išminties be dvasingumo, o tikrasis dvasingumas visada reikalauja tarnauti kitiems; Mokytojo nuomone, blogai, kai žmogus nesugeba kurti eilių, bet nepalyginimai blogiau, kai kuria neišmanydamas.
It is what you do in this world that matters, not how you come into it.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061120251, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 2000: Until Isabel Allende burst onto the scene with her 1985 debut, The House of the Spirits, Latin American fiction was, for the most part, a boys' club comprising such heavy hitters as Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, and Mario Vargas Llosa. But the Chilean Allende shouldered her way in with her magical realist multi-generational tale of the Trueba family, followed it up with four more novels and a spate of nonfiction, and has remained in a place of honor ever since. Her sixth work of fiction, Daughter of Fortune, shares some characteristics with her earlier works: the canvas is wide, the characters are multi-generational and multi-ethnic, and the protagonist is an unconventional woman who overcomes enormous obstacles to make her way in the world. Yet one cannot accuse Allende of telling the same story twice; set in the mid-1800s, this novel follows the fortunes of Eliza Sommers, Chilean by birth but adopted by a British spinster, Rose Sommers, and her bachelor brother, Jeremy, after she is abandoned on their doorstep.
"You have English blood, like us," Miss Rose assured Eliza when she was old enough to understand. "Only someone from the British colony would have thought to leave you in a basket on the doorstep of the British Import and Export Company, Limited. I am sure they knew how good-hearted my brother Jeremy is, and felt sure he would take you in. In those days I was longing to have a child, and you fell into my arms, sent by God to be brought up in the solid principles of the Protestant faith and the English language."
The family servant, Mama Fresia, has a different point of view, however: "You, English? Don't get any ideas, child. You have Indian hair, like mine." And certainly Eliza's almost mystical ability to recall all the events of her life would seem to stem more from the Indian than the Protestant side.

As Eliza grows up, she becomes less tractable, and when she falls in love with Joachin Andieta, a clerk in Jeremy's firm, her adoptive family is horrified. They are even more so when a now-pregnant Eliza follows her lover to California where he has gone to make his fortune in the 1849 gold rush. Along the way Eliza meets Tao Chi'en, a Chinese doctor who saves her life and becomes her closest friend. What starts out as a search for a lost love becomes, over time, the discovery of self; and by the time Eliza finally catches up with the elusive Joachin, she is no longer sure she still wants what she once wished for. Allende peoples her novel with a host of colorful secondary characters. She even takes the narrative as far afield as China, providing an intimate portrait of Tao Chi'en's past before returning to 19th-century San Francisco, where he and Eliza eventually fetch up. Readers with a taste for the epic, the picaresque, and romance that is satisfyingly complex will find them all in Daughter of Fortune. --Margaret Prior

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:21 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A Chilean woman searches for her lover in the goldfields of 1840s California. Arriving as a stowaway, Eliza finances her search with various jobs, including playing the piano in a brothel.

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