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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,392135315 (4.09)369
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» See also 369 mentions

English (108)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (6)  Italian (5)  Danish (2)  German (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (135)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Isabel Allende has written a momentous work with her novel, The House of the Spirits. This magical novel is about mental and physical oppression in all forms whether it be a marriage, a love relationship, or at the hands of a political dictatorship. The author depicts man’s propensity for cruelty, his need for revenge to reassert his power, and his quest to impose his will via deceit and lack of compassion for the weak. But Allendes’s male characters are not all despots. The patriarch of this Trueba family saga, Esteban, has fathered a son whose sole goal in life is help the poor and needy with his medical skills. His daughter and granddaughter are passionately linked to men who fight for freedom and justice for the lower classes of society.
What you won’t find in this book are women who share the same cruel tendencies as her male characters. They are all compassionate, industrious, generous, and willing to forgive all the evil happening around them—even Esteban’s favourite prostitute becomes a charitable business woman who willingly helps out her old friends. Allende’s ultimate message—that the days of despots ‘are numbered, because they have not been able to destroy the spirit of these women’—is an honourable one, but has in turn sacrificed the roundedness of her characters.
A profound, and thought-provoking read. ( )
  Murielle_Cyr | Mar 29, 2015 |
(First-)Half magic realism and (second-)half politics, the sensationalist novel follows four generations of people who form a microcosm of what I imagine to be Chilean history, or the history of a general place becoming a more cohesive whole. The development of the DelValle-Trueba reminds me of the stages of Deadwood where
1. the town is originally tents and shacks with men toiling for gold,
2. whereas the next rush of people are the ones making money off of the needs of the original tenants by providing tools and shelter,
3. eventually families are sent for once the men are more established with their mines, and provisions are made for the next generation, e.g., schoolhouses, and
4. laws are established and politics and outside technology intervene - e.g. giant mining pumps - intervene and people clash once the basic needs for shelters and foods are behind them and ideologies surface.

Analogously, in the novel, we have
1. the country house Esteban's father owns, full of people living by their own rules until
2. Esteban arrival improves their standards of living and
3. eventually Esteban establishes his own family where his children benefit off his original success, the security that allows them to pursue their passions, until
4. political differences arise etc.

The characters were colourful and flawed - which are the highest praise you can heap on fictional characters surely - and due to the magic realism, almost like caricatures which should not be a problem once you understand that each character is essentially a symbol rather than a person. The only character - who was also the best character - I do not really understand is Rosa, what is the point of her? Other than being the only character who lived true to herself and wanted for nothing, and also dodged the bullet of tumultuous-familial-saga by dying and because she was dead, did not have to marry Esteban who thought turning a beloved dog into a rug is a great idea for his child bride.. The tone of book was unexpectedly abrupt with its gritty reality overcast and felt almost as if it were an ending to the non-magic all-realism version of the book. Also, I disliked how Esteban never got his just comeuppance for his awful deeds. (one star off)

Recommended if you enjoy magic realism and the usual accompanying crazy ideas, as well as a fast read and a subtle lesson on Chilean history. If you have trouble keeping track of all the names, a small thing that might help: this is the segundo time (after One Hundred Years of Solitude) I have encountered Segundo as a name and I finally realised what it means, quickly berating myself for thinking, what an interestingly popular Spanish name. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 17, 2015 |
Psionics. ( )
  JorgeCarvajal | Feb 13, 2015 |
A wonderful book. It's the story of several generations of the Del Valle and Trueba families. It's set in a fictional south american country, which is obviously Chile, given what we know about Allende's family and history. Salvador Allende was her father's cousin. He was the president of Chile and was overthrown (and killed) by General Pinochet in a coup in 1972. Some passages in the book (ascribed to the (never named) socialist "candidate") are direct quotations of President Allende.

The novel starts out at the start of the 20th century and ends soon after the Chilean revolution in the 70's. The main protagonist is Clara (the clairvoyant) her husband Esteban Trueba and their daughter Blanca and her daughter Alba. Trueba is an
(self made) aristocrat, hard working, but also arrogant and demanding complete obedience from his workers and peasants. Clara and her children represent the compassionate and caring side of human nature. Much of the realism of the book comes from the tension between these forces of the "right" and the "left". Though Allende's sympathies are obviously on the left, she is also quite honest in highlighting their faults.
Clara's family is a microcosm of what is happening in the larger society.

The novel covers several years after the coup and military takeover. There are scenes of torture. In the past the left and right's fight, though not always fair, was political. But the coup has freed a new evil, which understands only power and total subservience. Esteban was instrumental in starting the coup, but he is powerless after it. He manages to get his granddaughter away from the torture center. The novel ends in some hope.
Alba refuses to leave the country knowing that the people's indomitable can overcome the generals (the book came out in 1982, Pinochet was finally brought down a decade later).

The book has been characterized (unfairly, in my opinion) by some critics as being a copy or ripoff of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (henceforth GGM :-). But I don't agree. They both write using magical realism but Allende has her own style. It is interesting that both authors were also journalists as well as fiction writers throughout their careers. ( )
  amareshjoshi | Jan 31, 2015 |
This is the third novel by Isabel Allende I have read. Each time I think it's the best I have read. The house of Spirits is excellent and bye far the best (so far). It is a feast of color, language, history and story-telling! ( )
  elsyd | Jan 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabel Allendeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morino AngeloTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piloto Di Castri, SoniaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bogin, MagdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hitchens, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary 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 your language.
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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