Grace Tjan's Reviews > The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
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Feb 17, 10

bookshelves: 2010, contemporary-fiction, latin-america-caribbean, realismo-magico
Read from February 12 to 17, 2010

I often read about how The House of the Spirits is comparable to One Hundred Years of Solitude; aside from them both being written by Latin American authors, they are also multigenerational family sagas steeped in the turbulent history of their respective countries, flavored with that Latin American specialty --- magical realism. But despite those superficial resemblances, they are completely different beasts.

Magical realism is perhaps one of the most difficult literary sleight of hand to perform --- an overuse of it can turn a decent story into a gimmicky fable where pointless supernatural events replace narrative and character development. Marquez is a master of the genre, and even he is not always entirely successful. Fortunately, Allende employs the device in a restrained way, keeping it more like an ambient sound in a symphony of family drama and history. The drama is enjoyable enough and there are parts that make for compelling reading, but for most of the book, the writing rarely rises above the pedestrian, although still well above the paint-by-number dreariness of Zorro. The characters, some of which are interesting enough, are ultimately too two-dimensional to generate genuine pathos, especially considering the tragic aspects of the story. There is also a jarring switching between third-person omniscient and first-person narratives that does no service to the overall story. So, to sum up, this book is no masterpiece, but it is probably worth your while, especially if you are a fan of family sagas replete with illicit, breathless romances and epic political happenings in a faraway country.
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Reading Progress

02/14/2010 page 150
34.64% "Why the constant switch between 1st person and 3rd person omniscient?"
02/15/2010 page 240
55.43% "Is 'The Poet' supposed to be Pablo Neruda?"
02/16/2010 page 360
83.14% "'It was stained with red paint and contained a single word printed in enormous letters: Djakarta." Ref. to G30sPKI?" 12 comments

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by eve (new) - rated it 3 stars

eve I've been trying to find this book for years but to no avail. Where did you find it?


Grace Tjan Amazon. Can't find it in any of the English bookstores in Jakarta.


message 3: by Sherien (last edited Feb 09, 2010 07:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sherien hey sandy and eve! I just saw it in kinokuniya plaza senayan today, go get it! or u can call them and ask them to keep it...kayaknya ada dua kopi... it's really a great book!


Sherien owww u got it from amazon already...I missed that...I was too excited to tell you, sandy ;o) anyways tell me what u think about it after u've read it ok..


Grace Tjan Really? When I asked them about it last month, they said that it's out of stock and that they didn't know when they're going to get a new copy. : O


message 6: by eve (new) - rated it 3 stars

eve When I asked them about it last month, they said that it's out of stock and that they didn't know when they're going to get a new copy.

classic story! I wish I can. I live in bali so that might be a prob...thanks for the info Sher!



message 7: by Ayu (new) - added it

Ayu Palar I'm thinking to read it too. Sher, lend me a copy? :D


message 8: by Sherien (last edited Feb 11, 2010 03:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sherien @ayu:sure!


message 9: by Ayu (new) - added it

Ayu Palar Go Sandy! After finishing it, write a good review so it motivates me more to read it!


Grace Tjan Okey Dokey.


Sherien owww, Yay..yay...yay... you're reading this!


Laura Sandy, I don´t think we can compare Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, their styles are completely different as you pointed out.
However, the relevance of Allende´s, specially The House of Spirits, is it was written under Chile dictatorial period where any political prosecution was forbidden to be published by the press in general. That´s the main contribution of Allende´s books, it reflects a historical period in LA where real facts were never came to public opinion, on the contrary. Isabel just found a way to do it, as well as many LA writters at that time.


Grace Tjan Laura wrote: "Sandy, I don´t think we can compare Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, their styles are completely different as you pointed out.
However, the relevance of Allende´s, specially The House of Spirit..."


Laura, I understand and appreciate the political relevance of The House of the Spirits and other LA novels. That said, I feel that, while it is certainly not bad, the quality of the writing is not as high as Marquez's novels at his peak. Maybe it's just a personal preference of mine.


Sherien now I need to read one hundred years of solitude...


Grace Tjan Yes. Read and compare. : )


message 16: by Ayu (new) - added it

Ayu Palar While I need to read House of The Spirits!


message 17: by eve (new) - rated it 3 stars

eve now, I'm very very curious about this book. I don't mind queuing for this :-)


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