Nian's Reviews > The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
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May 10, 08

bookshelves: 2008
Read in May, 2008

I really wish I could say this is an amazing book, worthy of so much thoughtful praises, etc., but that would just be a lie. Given how much I enjoy good writing—and this book definitely has it all, like a beautifully crafted essay that speaks with prominent characters and conflicts between generations of families—it’s kind of weird for me to say this book is just okay. I mean, the only thing I like from this entire book is the language: the metaphors, descriptions, the lines that sound so poetic and true, and the impressive vocabulary. Everything else? Not so much.

Storyline. Absolutely hate how the story shifts like a timeline of generations. It makes sense that it would cover the entire family from grandfather to granddaughter since it’s a family story, but I hate how little time we get to spend with each character before s/he is whisked off to some other place, and only to return whenever the author feels like it. (That how it looks like to me.) Each chapter is almost devoted to just one or two characters, and I find it really tiring, especially when it’s all about relationships and love that I haven’t really figured out why it exists. It’s written at a speed that makes the character’s love story seem kind of random.

It’s like what I say about the protagonist falling in love with her best friend: when readers start the story, they’re just given the fact that they’ve been through a lot and have been best friends forever, so of course they fall in love. But readers don’t get to see that process, and it’s frustrating to see the point they’re making when the viewers are just like, “Yeah, okay, if you say so.” So the protagonists don’t fall in love with their best friends in this book, but they might as well have. Take Pedro Tercero and Blanca, for instance. Love at first sight. Whoop-de-do. First of all, clichéd. Second of all, no development. Love at first sight is pretty explanatory itself, but how the heck did they grow to love each other so much? One minute, they’re children, the next paragraph; they’re teens trying to express themselves. I hate that we just have to take the basic “Oh, they fell in love the first time they curled up against each other” from the author without really questioning how it happened or why it’s developed into some life-and-death scenario later. I can’t handle reading a relationship that doesn’t express itself in a deeper stand and instead, just tells you, yes, they love each other, yes, they are willing to do for each other, yes, they are having wild and passionate sex. So what if they do all of that? It’s the chemistry and direct message that I will interpret that matters.

Of course, if it was just one couple, I could handle. But the sad thing is that the same goes for Clara and Esteban. Maybe it’s the time period, but the author likes to play with the love at first sight story. That’s how Esteban fell for Clara. And Clara was only in it because of her vision, which makes me more frustrated. If you can see the future, why not change it? For a character that seems pretty strong—yet identified as fragile and beautiful, of all the freaking adjectives to describe women!—she lacks what I hope for in a protagonist. Isabel Allende tries to make her manner seem so unorganized and magical realism that she comes off rather cold and unconvincing. And the fact that she hardly talks, not just her character and her mute phases but the dialogue in the book itself (really, the only one who actually says things throughout the book in conversation form would be Esteban and Transito. I felt they talked more than husband and wife. Ironic much?). Seeing as how they’ve spent years and years together, you’d think I, as a reader, could see something present in their relationship, some sort of depth or attraction, but nope, nothing. I mean, I saw a spark in his relationship with a prostitute rather than Clara, which is just wrong. And, the only one who’s real in here is Esteban, but too bad I find him and his actions revolting. If I were to rate him on a personality scale, it’d be negative, negative 1. In this case, two negatives don’t make a positive, people.

Still continuing with the storyline, I find the political stuff just plain boring. I hate how we’re required to read books that not only talk about religion (like Christianity, which is really getting boring by now. How many more discussion topics about this can I handle before I start to scream?) but also politics. I don’t mind if the authors throw it in here and there, but to put all her characters involved with government conflict? It makes the story so predictable (because it is. You don’t politics never end well) and you know we will all spend a day or two talking about the different sides they’re taking and what a big theme it is. I’m just like, yeah, okay, whatever. I don’t want to end up having to look up the political references that the book mentioned to understand it all, and I don’t want a book that puts so much pressure on generations of families just because they don’t agree with each other. It’s bad enough that people are so passionate about that stuff, when others would very much like to just leave it at whatever’s best for the country, and still find something annoying in a work of fiction. With this topic, it threatens the characters and changes their personalities. Instead of being natural people, they get portrayed as good citizens who want to fight for what they believe in. We all know most people wouldn’t do that. Take the Holocaust, for instance. How much people stood up for Jews then? If I’m reading about a character that has journeyed into this political standing/situation, then I have nothing to complain about. But nope, not the case.

It’s also not about the storyline, but how messed up the characters and the people are. It drives me crazy how the author, out of the blue, tells you what can be expected somewhere down the road. I want to be amazed, shocked, and not told what’s going to happen. (One example would be when Amanda’s picking up Miguel from school and says something about dying for him. Then, the author jumps in with, little did she know that she would have to one day. Random!) And it also makes me nuts whenever characters appear and disappear. Like Transito. She appears early on in the book and vanishes until Esteban’s lust kicks in. And finally, she helps him. Or the Moira Sisters—I can’t even remember the significance they had, just that they were like Clara the Clairvoyant. Oh, just the tiniest thing can frustrate me about this book. I haven’t found one single character that I like. They’re all pigs/rapists, or poor fragile women who can’t stand up for themselves, with the exception of Alba. She realizes in the end that she can’t give up, but the whole pregnancy and don’t know who the father is makes me grimace.

I hate how every generation is about sadness, and how everything bad that can happen, happens to the Trueba/Del Valle family. But that’s story-telling for you, just not realistic.

On a final note, even though it couldn’t have been more than a few weeks, it seemed like I’d been reading this book for months, and those months just dragged on and on, especially since I had the old issue of the book where the pages were yellow and smelled like moth balls and some other unidentifiable thing.

The rating: I would have given it 1 star, but the writing was good, so I decided to be nice.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Angelique I also found it hard to feel any compassion for the characters as it just had too much in too little space, but I did love it.


Sandra Trevino I agree with your review.


Meghan agree x100. Bravo!


Eddie I gave a favorable review to the book but I do agree with what you say.


Danielle I agree with your review too. I'm Gavin such a hard time getting through this book, and I LIKE magical realism.


Miss J You've expressed just what I feel about this book.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


Nermin Sharbek This is such an accurate description of how I felt about the book, however I felt like I could not judge this book as an inexperienced reader. You just took my thoughts and placed them in writing. Thank You for this great review, quite refreshing to read considering how long and detailed this book is and I tend to forget most events.


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