ALLENDE, Isabel (born 1942), Peruvian-born Chilean novelist
Allende’s first novel, The House of the Spirits (1985), was a glowing family tapestry in the magic-realist manner of >> Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, spanning five generations and thronged with larger-than-life characters and supernatural events. She followed this vein in Eva Luna, which is particularly evocative of life on a decaying hacienda deep in the tropical bush. Her finest book, Of Love and Shadows (see below) adds politics to the magic-realist mixture, to devastating effect. Paula is a moving account of the death of Allende’s daughter which opens out into the story of her own life and the political tragedies of Chile. Aphrodite is an unclassifiable celebration of food, sex and sensuality which reflects the same delight in the physical world that runs through all her fiction.
OF LOVE AND SHADOWS (1987)
Irene Beltrán, a journalist, and her photographer-lover Francisco Leal are investigating the disappearance of a disturbed, possibly saintly adolescent. In the jackbooted dictatorship in which they live, however, the child is not simply missing but ‘disappeared’, one of thousands snatched by the authorities who will never be seen again. Allende surrounds her main characters with a web of fantastic personal history in true magic-realist style. But the further the investigators thread their way through the sadism and ruthlessness of the labyrinthine fascist state, the more fact begins to swallow fairytale. The investigators themselves begin to lose reality – their love affair becomes a swooning parody of romantic fiction – but what they discover grows more and more uncomfortably like real South American life, like nightmare fleshed.
Allende’s other books include The Stories of Eva Luna (a set of long short stories which forms a pendant to Eva Luna ), Daughter of Fortune , Portrait in Sepia (two novels which have the same setting and some of the same characters as The House of the Spirits ), City of the Beasts and Zorro , her own take on the legend of the swashbuckling, masked hero.
Alejo Carpentier, The Chase;
Stephen Dobyns, The Two Deaths of Señora Puccini;
Oscar Hijuelos, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien;
>> Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
>> Mario Vargas Llosa, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service gives a more farcical view of Allende’s terrifying, haunted world.
Similar Theme: ALL-ENGULFING FAMILIES
Anita Brookner, Family and Friends
Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Anne Fine, Telling Liddy
Margaret Forster, The Battle for Christabel
John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
Lesley Glaister, Digging to Australia
François Mauriac, The Nest of Vipers
Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
See also: Eccentric Families; Many Generations
Source Credits: Nick Rennison, Good Reading Guide: Discover Your Next Great Read, Bloomsbury Publishing, Seventh Edition