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Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.) by…

Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.) (1999)

by Isabel Allende

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (139)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (3)  Italian (3)  Lithuanian (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
This is a wonderful well-written historical fiction that begins in the British community of Chili, a culture I knew nothing about until I read this book. Set in the mid-1800’s we are taken back to a time where women are subjected to disturbing means in order to survive. Our discussion revolved around the strong women characters, the challenges they had to face and the life-threatening diseases they had to overcome.

Eliza, a young woman who was abandoned at birth and raised by a spinster named Rose and her brother Jeremy, enters womanhood and finds what she believes to be her true love. Pregnant with his child, she risks her life to follow him to San Francisco where he hopes to strike it rich by gold mining. But her journey is not easy and death is near.

This book had so many interesting facts about many different cultures which enhanced the story immensely. It was not only a great historical romance but a good history lesson too.

Having lived in the gold rush town of Sonora, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book and loved learning many aspects of the gold rush era that took place in California.

There were a lot of facts to process in the book. The chapters were long and the book is almost four hundred pages. For me, it took a while to read, mainly because It was a book I could easily put down and return to at a later time. Others in the group felt the same way. We all felt the ending was abrupt and left some unanswered questions, which was disappointing after investing so much time into the book. ( )
  tinahogangrant | Apr 20, 2019 |
Is there a Volume 2? Well written, but did not finish all th story lines. ( )
  LeeHamlett | Apr 20, 2019 |
This was the first book to introduce me to Isabel Allende. There was of course no better introduction. The novel feels like the dank, swaying cabin on a boat. A boat like the one Eliza travels in from Chile to California. The gold dust currents lead Eliza into a journey that will lead her to the underbelly of 19th-century San Francisco--and into the arms of an unlikely man. ( )
  oacevedo | Apr 9, 2019 |
Eliza Sommers, educada entre las costumbres victorianas y leyendas chilenas, decide abandonar Valparaíso para seguir a su amado hasta California. Allí, junto a su amigo Tao Chien, emprende una aventura que le llevará a un profundo proceso de enriquecimiento personal llegando a la conclusión de que en esta vida no se llega ninguna parte, se camina no más ( )
  Berenjena92 | Apr 1, 2019 |

*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.

( )
  marjorie.mallon | Mar 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabel Allendeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Juan, AnaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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.
The things we forget may as well never have happened, but she had many memories, both real and illusory, and that was like living twice.
He had only a vague idea of her size and of a dark aureole of hair, but it would not be until their second meeting a few days later that he would sink into the perdition of her black eyes and the watery grace of her gestures.
Eliza's legs were trembling; she hadn't used them in two months, and she felt as landsick as she had before at sea, but the man's clothing gave her an unfamiliar freedom; she had never felt so invisible.
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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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