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Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.) by…
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Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.) (original 1999; edition 2006)

by Isabel Allende

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5,962121701 (3.69)191
Member:EnriqueFreeque
Title:Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Isabel Allende
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:chilean lit, books, 21st century fiction, fiction, novel, california, gold mines, historical fiction, love story

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Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (1999)

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Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
The book is best when it follows Eliza Sommers. The backstories of Rose Sommers, Karl Bretzner, and Tao Chi'en stop the natural flow of things and just drag down an otherwise wondeful book.

The story picks up speed when Eliza reaches California. The Chilean part takes too long to establish characters and motivation. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 2, 2014 |

*4.5 stars*

At first I was a little unsure whether I would enjoy this book as it is not the usual genre that I read, but all my doubts were quickly swept away by Isabel Allende’s wonderful storytelling.

It is set in the British colony of Valpraiso, in 1840’s Chile and begins in a humorous way by telling us Eliza Sommers two talents: a sense of smell and a good memory. By the end of the book I discovered that Eliza’s character had grown so much that these two meager talents have increased tenfold.

Eliza is an orphan who was found on the doorstep, raised by Miss Rose, a Victorian spinster with a hidden past, her starchy brother Jeremy, and an Indian servant, Mama Fresia. Much to the family’s dismay she falls in love with Joaquín Andieta, an unsuitable young man from a poor family, with political ideals that are at odds with the state. Eliza without a thought to consequence, gives herself to this young man, drugging the household, so they will not hear their passionate lovemaking. She is disconsolate when she finds that he intends to go to California to make his fortune in gold. She can do nothing to stop him. He, like so many others is obsessed by the vision of gold, and wealth. Her lover takes off for San Francisco leaving her behind broken hearted. Eliza discovers that she is pregnant with his child, and decides that she has no other alternative left but to follow him.

Eliza hides in the hold of a ship bound for California. She becomes ill and is attended to by Tao, a Chinese doctor. Tao began his sailor’s life after being shanghaied. He had been drinking to forget his sorrow at the sad death of his young, beautiful wife Lin. On board ship his wife’s delicate ghost comes to him when he is administering to Eliza and berates him for not doing his utmost to save her. He is so distressed by this ghostly vision of his wife that he does everything in his power to help Eliza. Eliza has a miscarriage but survives and escapes from the ship dressed in male clothing. She continues to pretend that she is male to blend in and safeguard her safety. In this land driven crazy by gold fever, single men and prostitutes make up the population. She has no wish to become a prostitute so she chooses to adopt a masculine persona. In this new world she finds freedom from the restraints of her life as a woman living in a British household in Chile. In time she discovers that her first love Joaquin is but a distant memory and that the kindness of Tao enriches her life in ways that Joaquin never did.

Daughter of Fortune has several strengths, her characterisation is excellent, I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of several female characters: Miss Rose, even though she is constrained by female niceties knows how to get what she wants. Paulina manipulates her husband to get her own bank account and eventually buys a steam ship and becomes a wealthy business woman. Though Tao’s wife Lin is described as being weak her ghost manages to find him across the vast expanse of ocean and convinces him to help Eliza.

I also really enjoyed how Allende played with her characters: the intimidating giant Babula the Bad is really a good guy, with a soft side. In Eliza’s case this transformation is even more marked, as if she is rediscovering herself in stages as the adventure unfolds. She pretends to be a deaf-mute Chinese boy and then the brother of her Chilean lover, and finally she rediscovers her female identity, but this female is no longer chained by layers of corsetry but free to be herself.

Also Tao’s character transforms from his humble start as fourth son to respected Chinese doctor. He learns that his delicate young wife with golden lilies for feet only brings him a fleeting happiness, cut short by her early death, whereas Eliza with her big feet and sturdy body will give him many years of companionship and love.

There are passages in the novel that are gut wrenchingly sad, the death of Lin is difficult to read as it is so heartfelt. But there is also a sense that life is a journey of discovery, with many possibilities open to us.

If I have any criticisms of the novel they are few and far between. There were possibly times when I thought that some of the descriptions were slightly long but overall I didn’t find that this bothered me. Early on in the novel it was mentioned that Eliza thought that Miss Rose and Mr Todd would make a good couple but this didn’t happen. I would have preferred to find this out myself rather than being told it.

Overall I really enjoyed the book, I think in part due to the diverse characters, the cultural references and the skill of Allende’s writing. The final chapter didn’t disappoint. By the end of the tale Joaquin had become her past, a hazy reflection of the young man that she had adored and Eliza was looking forward rather than back, to a new beginning.


( )
  kyrosmagica | Jun 8, 2014 |
Daughter of Fortune is the story of Eliza, the foundling raised in what passed for the lap of luxury in 1800's Valparaiso, Chile. She grows up the sheltered "daughter" of the unapproachable Jeremy Sommers & his spinster sister Rose, who has secrets of her own. John, their older brother & sea captain, is an integral figure in the book, but at first we only see him on the periphery. When Eliza is 16, she has an illicit affair with Joaquin Andieta, a minor employee of the company Eliza's foster father runs. When she realizes that her affair has left her pregnant, she hatches a plan with Rose's cook & housekeeper, who has been like a grandmother to her, to spirit her away from Chile & follow her lover to California, at the beginning of the Gold Rush. She nearly does not survive the trip, stowed away in the hold of a ship during the crossing, enduring a miscarriage that almost ends her life, if it wasn't for the valiant efforts of the Chinese physician Tao Chien, & a prostitute with a heart of gold.

Her adventures once she is there are a journey of discovery for Eliza, who spends the next several years dressed as a man, & mistaken for a young boy.

This is a book I very nearly couldn't put down, & finding out the family secrets made it all the more enjoyable, as you are given the barest tantalizing hints of them scattered throughout the book.

I loved it, & will definitely go back & read more of her work :) ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
This book took a while to get into. It follows the life of Eliza, who is an orphan in Chile taken in by a wealthy British family. The first couple chapters probably could have been cut out, since they give almost no indication of Eliza's character and focus almost entirely on the British family, who virtually disappear once the main story begins.

Eliza is a great character and the love story is engaging. The gold rush was an interesting backdrop for the novel. If you like historical fiction, you might like to read about the fictionalized trading, booming business, and strategies that built the major cities in the west. The characters were diverse and the story moved at a nice pace. It wouldn't be my first pick, but it was an enjoyable read. ( )
  ahgonzales | Feb 5, 2014 |
I read another book by Allende, Island Beneath the Sea, and what I appreciated most about that story was the author’s ability to set a cultural scene that was different from my own but still very vivid. Daughter of Fortune followed suit with detailed descriptions of cultural nuances and character portrayals that transported me to another place and time. She moved from one continent to another with a fluidity and clarity that in my opinion is hard to master. I loved every moment of feeling that I didn’t know what geographic turn was around the corner.

Beyond the historical journey what I found most striking about this book is that the characters are diverse in many ways but share one key similarity: they are constantly in a state of transition. As such, attempting to “know” any one of them is a difficult undertaking. Through her characters Allende demonstrates that social labels are often more dependent on circumstance than by true personality traits. The same person that is a princess in her home lives as an unwanted nuisance abroad. Similarly, a rouge in one location is a hero in another.

In my opinion the beauty of the story wasn’t in whether or not Eliza found love but what held my attention was following her journey and marveling at the layers she shed in the process.

For my full review visit my blog, Honey Lemon Tea, http://bit.ly/JiOtHm. ( )
  honeylemontea | Dec 26, 2013 |
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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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:18 -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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