Monday, April 14, 2008

House of Spirits

I hate that I didn't like this book. It's very well received among literary critics and Isabella Allende is considered a giantess of an author. I want to go to a book reading and eat strange delicacies and say things like, "Fabulous. Revolutionary. Extraordinary." Instead, I'm left reading finishing the book in my bathtub saying, "huh?"

Jay majored in Spanish and had to read lots and lots of Spanish literature. He loves books like Hundred Years of Solitude and Bless Me, Ultima. He has persuaded me to read all of these. He bought me this book for my birthday. I'm going to have to start putting my foot down.

There is a genre of Latin American literature called Magical Realism. This genre weaves a plausible story line, set in real life time and real life places with magic. For instance, the first chapter of this book starts with the narrator describing Rosa the Beautiful who had green hair, yellow eyes and transparent skin. And it's not "hair so yellow it looked green"- it's Green! When Rosa dies, she turns into a mermaid!?! Clara, one of the two main characters in the book is clairvoyant and moves tables, salt shakers, predicts the death of people and the outcome of elections. These things are not real but so many books are written like this and I guess I'm supposed to be wowed by the technique. I'm not quite sure what it's purpose it other than making a really goofy story.

Overall, there is a point. Well...several points. One, the evolution of progress both politically and technologically. The author contrasts the rise of Socialism/Marxism against country's history of feudalism and the upper class's puppeted democracy.

The other is the relationships of the characters. There is a similarity throughout all of the romantic relationships that the author probably did on purpose to make some point that I don't understand. She also explores the relationship between brothers and sisters, tenants and landlords and other random supporting characters. I felt as soon as I connected with any of these characters (which was very, very hard to do) the story shifted or the narrator took a detour (all glowingly noticed as well by critics). Rather than applaud with wonder at Allende's craft, I felt the entire story was manic phase after manic phase. Towards the end, I felt like I had been at a party all night meeting strangers and just wanted to go home.

For those more mature than me and interested in magical realism, this book would be perfect!

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