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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
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The House of the Spirits (1982)

by Isabel Allende

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (99)  Spanish (7)  Italian (5)  Dutch (5)  Danish (2)  German (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
Allende's engrossing family epic traces the history of a family through three generations, focused primarily on a trio of strong female women in the Trueba family. The novel actually opens with the del Valle family. Nivea is the matron, and among her many children she has two eccentric, powerful daughters. Rosa is an unearthly beauty with green hair, who everyone believes is a mermaid with legs. Clara, her much younger sister, is clairvoyant who communes with spirits and has telekinesis. Esteban Trueba falls desperately in love with Rosa. However, when she is murdered (in place of her father) before their promised wedding, Esteban decides to pursue his alliance with their family by marrying Clara, who is of age by that time. He is surprised to discover he loves Clara even more than her ethereal sister.

Clara, for her part, decides to marry without love, and accepts Esteban. Her clairvoyant pursuits intensify after her marriage, and her home becomes a haven for spiritualists, spirits, and poets. Esteban's sister, Ferula, moves in with them and develops an intimate friendship with Clara. This relationship irritates Esteban, particularly since his sister is possessively jealous of his relations with his wife, and strains the household. They alternately live in Esteban's country estate and the house he built for them in the city. Eventually, tension between Esteban and Ferula rises to such extremes that Esteban banishes her from the house, and Ferula curses him to shrivel and shrink and die alone like a dog.

Meanwhile, Clara has become a mother to three children: Bianca, Nicolas, and Jaime. The story continues to narrate Clara's life, with occasional first person interjections from Esteban, but slowly moves to focus on her children, especially Bianca. Bianca develops a passionate relationship with Pedro Tercero Garcia, the son of Esteban's foreman. They were friends since they were small children, and naturally progressed into lovers once they matured. Bianca's brothers are sent to an English boarding school, and therefore aren't present when Esteban learns that his daughter is pregnant and Pedro Tercero is the father. Trueba frequently is a slave to his short temper, but this time he loses too much control, and whips Bianca until she is bloody. He even hits Clara. Although he immediately regains his senses, and apologizes to Clara, he has gone too far. Clara refuses to answer him, and never speaks to him again. She collects Bianca, and they return to the city.

The next phase of the story dwells even more on the younger generation. Esteban marries Bianca off to Jean de Satigny, and she has a surreal episode involving her husband's unsavory habits before she escapes home to Clara. Nicolas and Jaime also return home, with their own peculiar characters. When Bianca delivers the newest member of the family, Esteban dotes on his granddaughter Alba with all the affection he denies to his children. Alba grows into adolescence and adulthood, but her mature days are far less idyllic than those belonging to her mother and uncle. Chile undergoes dramatic upheaval as the communist faction wins election. The ruling class, unable to accept this change, gradually pushes their country into a military coup, and when the takeover is successful, the soldiers they led into a position of authority turn against them, too. A reign of totalitarian terror crashes over the land, and Alba is caught in a violent convergence of politics and personal vengeance against her grandfather.

The ending of this novel is brutal. I had a very difficult time reading the pages where Alba is imprisoned and tortured. This was my second reading of the book, but I am a mother now and that made the horror worse. I understand that certain books need these dark moments, which are born out of the plot and necessary to the message of the story, and I see the power in these final chapters. None of which makes it easier to read. Thankfully, her grandfather secures Alba's release at the end, the best action he takes in the entire novel; still not enough, though, to absolve him of his cruel past. I began the novel liking Esteban and soon grew to hate him, but his pitiable ending and his relationship with Alba ameliorated my feelings by the conclusion. As for Clara and Bianca, on the other hand, I loved their characters. Clara was more appealing, with her strange blend of spiritual aloofness, love, and occasional earthy common sense. I sympathized with Bianca and her love for Pedro Tercero, but I appreciated Alba's tough independence more. While the women are the stars of the novel, Jaime and Nicolas are not neglected in the narrative space. I liked reading about both men, and found them far more likable than their father.

A great book introduces strong characters who invoke both love and hate, and shows their evolution in a plot that is intricate and layered with meaning. The House of Spirits is a great book. The people in the novel span more than three generations, and are fully developed characters, from the central figures to the minor players. Weaved among the lives of the tumultuous Trueba family is a complicated tangle of love, spirituality, ambition, ideals, and politics. The author develops her themes connected to all of these topics in ways that are organic to the narrative. Also, she writes in the style of magical realism, a type of writing originating in South America, and one which I particularly love. The fact that Rosa's legs become a mermaid's tail after her death, that Clara can use telekinesis and commune with spirits, and that certain characters instantly know when a loved one dies are all details that convey a delightful world where the supernatural and the realistic blend. Although I lowered my rating for the purely personal reason that the ending was so difficult for me, I truly enjoyed and admired the book. It is a great example of crafted writing with depth and meaning, that is nonetheless a fantastic story which immerses the reader in its world. ( )
  nmhale | Jul 8, 2014 |
I've read the portuguese translation of this book. ( )
  georgeslacombe | Feb 24, 2014 |
I like realistic fiction and I like fantasy, but for some reason, the Latin American magical realism novels don't move me. Whether it's Paulo Coehlo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Allende, after the finish the book, I don't feel that moved. I love Salman Rushdie and Haruki Murakami, so I don't think it's a complete disconnect with magical realism.

I was hopeful with this book - an epic story about a family whose lives are filled with hardship and tragedy. Sounds like my type of book. But for these stories to really grab me, I have to feel some kind of connection with the characters. They seemed too stereotyped or flat - either they were cruel or noble, or stoic, but I didn't get beyond the simple descriptions. Will keep on trying on this genre though... ( )
1 vote jmoncton | Nov 17, 2013 |
I found myself wondering what this literature novel was going to inspire me with. For the first 2/3 of the book, all that is shown to the reader is a history of a numerous generations of one family and the trials and tribulations they go through, throughout time. However, once I reached the end, everything fell into place. The disturbing mindset that I was wasting my time reading this book which had haunted me up until this point vanished, and instead left me with a lesson that I actually hold quite dear now.

As for a recommendation, I would only suggest beloved readers of literature to dive into this novel's world. Though, I am not insinuating that others would not appreciate this novel, I am just assuming it may be more difficult for them to get through it.

It turned out to be quite an exceptional book. It exceeded all of my expectations and, even though it was difficult to grasp in the beginning, left me something wonderful to ponder and share with the people around me. ( )
  bposinger | Nov 4, 2013 |
Une formidable histoire de famille sur plusieurs générations racontée avec un humour décapant. Le récit s'inscrit dans un contexte historique: le Chili au début du vingtième siècle, qui permet de découvrir une époque et un pays de façon insolite. ( )
  Lhiscock | Oct 27, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (94 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabel Allendeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morino AngeloTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piloto Di Castri, SoniaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bogin, MagdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lappi-Seppälä, JyrkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KjellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Николаева, СусаннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
How much does a man live, after all?
Does he live a thousand days, or one only?
For a week, or for several centuries?
How long does a man spend dying?
What does it mean to say "for ever"?

Pablo Neruda
Dedication
To my mother, my grandmother,
and all the other extraordinary women
of this story.
First words
Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy.
Quotations
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Esteban hatte Chinchillas auf seinem Gut herumhuschen sehen. Gelegentlich schoß er sie ab, weil sie die junge Saat fraßen, war aber nie auf den Gedanken gekommen, daß sich diese unscheinbaren Nagetiere in Damenpelzmäntel umwandeln ließen. Jean de Satigny suchte einen Kompagnon, der das Kapital, die Arbeit und die Gehege stellte, alle Risiken übernahm und den Gewinn fünfzig zu fünfzig mit ihm teilte.
(Kapitel 6, Hardcover Seite 187)
"Fast in allen Familien ist irgendein Blöder oder Verrückter, Alba", versicherte Clara, die Augen starr auf ihr Strickzeug geheftet, weil sie in all den Jahren nicht gelernt hatte, zu stricken, ohne hinzuschauen. "Manchmal bekommt man sie nicht zu sehen, weil die Angehörigen sie verstecken, als ob es eine Schande wäre. Sie sperren sie in die hintersten Zimmer, damit Besucher sie nicht zu Gesicht bekommen. Aber in Wirklichkeit braucht man sich ihrer nicht zu schämen, auch sie sind Werke Gottes."
"Aber wir haben keinen in unserer Familie", gab Alba zu bedenken.
"Nein, bei uns ist die Verrücktheit auf alle verteilt, und es ist nicht genug übriggeblieben, daß auch wir unseren Verrückten haben."
(Kapitel 9, Hardcover S. 288 f.)
Das Land füllte sich mit Uniformen, Kriegsmaschinen, Fahnen, Hymnen und Paraden, denn die Militärs kannten das Bedürfnis des Volkes nach eigenen Symbolen und Rhythmen. Senator Trueba, der diese Dinge grundsätzlich haßte, begriff, was seine Freunde im Club meinten, wenn sie sagten, der Marxismus habe in Lateinamerika nicht die geringste Chance, weil er die magische Seite der Dinge außer acht ließe. "Brot, Zirkus und irgendwas zum Verehren, das ist alles, was sie brauchen", schloß der Senator und bedauerte im stillen, daß das Brot fehlte.
Kapitel 13, Hardcover S. 392)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553273914, Mass Market Paperback)

Here, in an astonishing debut by a gifted storyteller, is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.

Esteban -- The patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by his tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess.

Clara -- The matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas.

Blanca -- Their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father's foreman fuels Esteban's everlasting contempt... even as it produces the grandchild he adores.

Alba -- The fruit of Blanca's forbidden love, a luminous bearty, a fiery and willful woman... the family's break with the past and link to the future.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:12 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The Trueba family embodies strong feelings from the beginning of the 2 through the assassination of Allende in 1973.

» see all 5 descriptions

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