Posted by: Ele Quigan | November 30, 2010

‘The House of the Spirits’ by Isabel Allende

The second of two tries to read a book based in Latin America over the past few months, and the one that I’ve succeeded in finishing.

Being someone who only speaks one language, reading novels with a different name structure always seem so confusing. Rather than the same two names floating throughout (One Hundred Years of Solitude) The house of the spirits thankfully has slightly different names for the characters, making it a lot easier to follow.

An interesting read, full of the changes from a right wing government to revolt and a leftist regime coming into power, and then losing it due to the power of the right – as well as the various subplots involving the family, the past the present, and how what people do have an effect on the future generations.

Very dark in places, I wouldn’t say that this was the most enjoyable read – I didn’t like reading about how the master of the family Hacienda rapes the peasant employees wives for pleasure (though I guess this could be how it likely happened) causing issues with illegitimate children who will not be acknowledge for their place (and part in any inheritance). But in saying that I understand how it explained the story further.

The underlying hatred of the peasant class is an undercurrent through a lot of the book, i can understand the push to rise up against the middle and upper classes – which seems even more relevant now with the recent student protests here in London.

What was depressing was the amount of corruption when the Left came to power, I think that was the lasting element of the novel for me, (that and its wonderful, inherent spirituality). Hearing how food deliveries were stopped, guns were stored, anything was challenged to cause the fall of the left, and within 3 days of the right coming back to power were as they were previously made me wonder how much of this we see within our own governments even now at the back end of the worst financial crisis in decades.

I did find some of the book frustrating – one of the characters has bright green hair, which the moderate realist in me refused to understand. Even now it doesn’t quite make sense, and I was unsure why it was such a constant theme in the novel. I did however love the rest of the spirituality and how each prior generation leaves its mark on the next.

I’ll probably read it again as I would be likely to get a bit more out of it a second time around, and we’ll see how it compares to One Hundred Years of Solitude if I ever finish that!



  1. […] The parenthesis and the footnote by Elouise Roper – “‘The House of the Spirits’ by Isabel Allende“ […]

  2. I love Isabel Allende’s novels, in part because they are able to portray such a multi-faceted view of Latin American politics and revolutions. You can understand the degree of corruption in the existing government and by the landowners (with vivid illustrations of how bad it is via things like peasant rape), but at the same time you see that the revolutionaries are far from perfect themselves, causing the entire scenario to resemble a great tragedy. I also like how Allende inserts little hints of magic into her stories, while at the same time mostly keeping with an entirely realistic worldview.

    I haven’t read One Hundred Years of Solitude yet, but I’ve been meaning to for some time.

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