emily's Reviews > Daughter of Fortune

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
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Jun 19, 11

bookshelves: book-club
Recommended for: someone's mom, Brangelina, Angelina Jolie who actually is someone's mom.
Read in June, 2011

I started out loving this book. Well, not loving it. But liking it well enough. I will, as always, kind of love a good historical fiction (embarrassing but true), and this one is solid, moving along through nineteenth-century Chile, a time/place I know nothing at all about. I was enjoying the pants off of Eliza's growing-up -- the mixture of drawing rooms (I'm always a sucker), evident ship traffic (also always a sucker), semi-mysterious origins (do I need to repeat myself?), all that.

Then Joaquin showed up, and I kept it together. Sure. I understand, Eliza. When we're sixteen (or whatever), we all totally have crushes on dudes who don't deserve it. Especially if the only three men you've ever met (more or less) are your two uncles and this guy your own age. Done and done. I'm totally there.

Then, California. Oh crap. See, as the book moved on, I was getting a little sick of the constant "many years later, when Rose took her first ride on a flying saucer, she reflected to the Martians," or whatever. Basically, there was a LOT of, well, I don't even want to call it foreshadowing -- it was too blatant, even, for that. But there was a lot of it, and it took away a certain amount of suspense. (Chief example: since we know from early on that Rose will meet Jacob again in California, the careful -- or even semi-careful -- reader won't spend a lot of time wondering if Rose will really believe that Eliza is dead.) Problem is, since most of the foreshadowing referred to events that took place in California, I found that time period a lot less compelling than the start of the book.

In addition to that, I had two other problems? concerns? with the book itself. First, I was disappointed by the handling of Tao Chi'en and Eliza's relationship. I said to a friend that this felt like a book somebody's mom would like (no diss meant to my own mom, or to me, in that I am, in fact, somebody's mom). The race relation issues in California were really, really spelled out time and again, far too clearly. I don't need to hear "she concluded that at the time loving someone of another race seemed impossible," since the plot of the book itself -- and the interactions between characters -- should make that clear enough. Things like that threw me out of the story, and felt like modern moralizing on the past. Second, did anyone not-me feel like Tao Chi'en and Eliza recast themselves as the Brangelina of the Gold Rush? The singsong girls, while totally interesting in and of themselves, were really there as a weird humanitarian afterthought.
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