Around the World in 80 Books discussion

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile
This topic is about My Invented Country
39 views
Group Reads Discussions > Discussion for My Invented Country

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars


message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Jul 15, 2018 08:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments About the Book (from isabelallende.com)

My Invented Country is a memoir in which truth is most definitely stranger than fiction. Exploring the events of her life and those of the country in which she lived until the assassination of her father’s cousin, President Salvador Allende, in Pinochet’s military coup, Allende takes us on a highly personal tour through her homeland, bringing it to life. This is where her grandfather saw the devil on a bus, recognizing him because of his “green cloven hooves like a billy goat,” and her great aunt sprouted wings. It is a place of love charms, ghosts, and continual family feuds.

Portraits of her family and friends jostle with vivid descriptions of local customs and beliefs, and through it all strides the indomitable figure of the young Isabel. Rebellious and passionate, a feminist long before she knew what feminism was, her love for (and sometimes exasperation with) Chile informs every line. Her experiences make for unforgettable, often hilarious reading that no admirer of Allende’s writing will want to miss.

About the Author (from famousauthors.org)

The Chilean writer Isabel Allende is best known for her novels The House of Spirits and City of Beasts. In addition to writing novels, Allende is an author to several short stories, plays and children’s stories. Sometimes based on her own childhood experiences, a lot of Allende’s stories mix together elements of myth and realism and are projected from a feminine point of view full of drama, romance and struggle. Over the years Isabel Allende has received immense international acclaim for her work. Allende is the niece of former Chilean President Salvador Allende who was assassinated in 1973. She was given membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and also awarded the prestigious National Literature Prize of Chile.

Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru on August 2, 1942 to Tomás and Francisca who divorced when Isbel was 3. Following the divorce, Francisca and Isabel moved to Santiago to her grandparents’ house where she spent her childhood. Her grandmother’s interest in fortune telling and astrology intensely fascinated Isabel and she also took a deep interest in the stories her grandmother told. The house was full of books of all kinds which Isabel read avidly. 3 years after graduating from a private high school in Santiago, Isabel married Miguel Frías, an engineer in 1962. She joined the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization where she worked for several years as a secretary. Isabel later shifted towards journalism and worked for Paula magazine as a journalist, editor and advice columnist. Allende also worked for the television as an interviewer and newscaster.

Following the months after her uncle Salvador Allende’s assassination, Isabel realized it was getting exceedingly dangerous for her family to live in Chile. Therefore, Isabel fled to Venezuela along with her husband and kids in 1973. In Venezuela, Allende failed to acquire a journalistic job despite the fact that she had become an established journalist in Chile. While in exile, Allende began work on her first novel, The House of the Spirits which was published in 1982. The novel became a sensational bestseller in Spain and West Germany, winning the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice Award nomination. It was also adapted to screen and released in the United States as a film in 1994.

Her next book, Of Love and Shadows also received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination. Allende met William Gordon, a lawyer while on a lecture tour to promote Of Love and Shadows in San Jose California. The two fell in love and married in 1988. Allende had been divorced from her first husband since a year by now. Even since the wedding in 1988, the couple has lived in Marin, California. Allende had been working as a school administrator but left the job to become a full time writer realizing her popularity in the field. In 1988, Allende published Eva Luna which was followed by a sequel The Stories of Eva Luna in 1991. Other following works of Isabel Allende include The Infinite Plan (1993), Paula (1995), Daughter of Fortune (1999) and Portrait in Sepia (2001).

Isabel Allende has been praised and honored at the Hispanic Heritage Awards for her contributions to the Hispanic American community. She was also awarded the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for excellence in the arts in 1998.


message 3: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Discussion Questions (from ReadingGroupGuides)

1. What are your initial impressions of Chile as Isabel Allende presents it in her opening scenes? Does the landscape correspond to its inhabitants? In what ways does Allende's persona reflect this geography?

2. The book's title reminds us of the subjectivity of memory. What recollections of your hometown might be shaped by your unique point of view? How would you describe your "invented" place of origin?

3. Allende describes herself as a charismatic woman who speaks frankly, wears bold colors, and savors her meals without worrying about cholesterol. Do these traits make her more of an exception in California or in Chile?

4. Allende powerfully recalls the aftermath of the September 11 military coup that launched Pinochet's reign of terror in 1973. She describes the fallout in personal terms: families torn apart by informants, a nation's faith in its electorate shaken, a vibrant cultural climate replaced by one of suppression. Discuss the parallels and distinctions between the trauma of Chile's 9/11 events and those that occurred in the United States exactly twenty-eight years later.

5. Despite the many wrenching occurrences in My Invented Country, Allende maintains a tone that is poetic yet also ironic and deliciously humorous. What is the effect this voice? What do you make of the gap that sometimes keeps Allende and her husband from appreciating each other's jokes?

6. What did My Invented Country reveal about Chilean attitudes towards sexism, racism and political correctness? How might this memoir have shifted had the author been male, or mestizo?

7. Relatives -- particularly grandparents -- played a distinctive role in shaping Allende's sense of self and inspiring much of her fiction. She even maintains an almost daily correspondence with her mother. Which of your relatives most heavily influenced your character, and your sense of imagination?

8. Allende writes that Chilean status was not heavily tied to wealth before the Pinochet years, but in contemporary Chile the ruling class is extremely affluent -- possibly at the expense of a once-sizeable middle class. Is this situation uniquely Chilean, or do you believe that the 1970s and 1980s were marked by similar economic shifts around the world?

9. My Invented Country is as much travelogue as memoir. What did you discover about the distinctions between various countries of South America, particularly Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela? How does Allende's South America compare to the other locales she has lived in, such as the Middle East and Europe?

10. Allende's fiction often features characters who have unusual perceptions of reality, or are able to tap spiritual worlds as easily as tangible ones. Does My Invented Country evoke any of these themes? In what way does it complete the memories recorded in her memoir Paula?

11. In what sense does My Invented Country read like a novel?

12. Did the book change your perception of your American identity?

13. In what ways is Allende a quintessential American?

14. In the book's second-to-last paragraph, Allende writes that "For the moment, California is my home, and Chile is the land of my nostalgia." Is your home also the land of your nostalgia?


Rosemarie | 3307 comments I really enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago. Not only did I learn about her own experiences, she gave us a good picture of the up-tight society in the Chilean upper middle class.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished this book & loved it. I'll take a closer look at Diane's questions above later on. I'm very glad to have read a memoir of one of my favourite authors.


Holly (hollymlyon) | 6 comments I am Ch. 3 of the book. I am really enjoying it so far. Really great discussion questions so far.


Laurie | 633 comments I like this book in many ways since I don't know much about Chile. It was interesting to read about the differences Allende sees between the country as it was when she was young and the way it is now. The hierarchy of the old established families is less stringent than when she was young, and it is possible now to be upwardly mobile if one has some money. But conspicuous wealth is now a goal whereas when she was growing up, it was important to be frugal even when one had money.

I also enjoyed reading about the genesis of The House of the Spirits. It is the first novel of hers I read and I was not a huge fan since I don't care much for magical realism. But I would like to read it again with the idea that this is her own crazy family that she is describing.


Holly (hollymlyon) | 6 comments I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I am glad I read it because I enjoyed reading about Allende's upbringing and life and how she became the women she is today.
When she talks about the Chile she talks about many of the double standards in society, the overpowering reach of the Catholic Church and the idocranysies of the Chilean (who are apparently into dark gallows humor). She explores how sometimes we romanticize places and people when we are not in close proximity and how she admits that she has done this a little bit with her family and Chile.

1. What are your initial impressions of Chile as Isabel Allende presents it in her opening scenes? Does the landscape correspond to its inhabitants? In what ways does Allende's persona reflect this geography?

Allende talks about the geography of Chile and how Chile "owns" Easter Island and a little bit of Antartica (which I just learned if you want to take a cruise to Antartica you depart most of the time from Chile if coming from North America.) Allende mocks her homeland a little saying that if you are Chilean you must say that the best of everything- people, wine, food etc. can ONLY be found in Chile. To me it sounds like as much as she points out what she does not like about Chile that she still holds this view somewhat (what country doesn't?).

2. The book's title reminds us of the subjectivity of memory. What recollections of your hometown might be shaped by your unique point of view? How would you describe your "invented" place of origin?
Like I mentioned earlier I think that sometimes we can make past memories seem more grand and better than they actually were. For instance the first house I lived in as a small child I remember it being a house that I loved to live in I had some very good memories growing up there. We moved and I have lived in other places so I forget about it but not to long ago I happened to be in that particular part of town and I thought it would be fun to drive down memory lane so to speak. When I saw it this time as an adult I realized it was so much smaller than I remembered it and the current owners haven't really kept it up so it just seemed like a small, kinda of shabby house really. The whole point of my story was that I think that was what Allended was trying to say when we are not around a particular place or person we tend to sentamentlize the past but reality hits when we are actually there.

4. Allende powerfully recalls the aftermath of the September 11 military coup that launched Pinochet's reign of terror in 1973. She describes the fallout in personal terms: families torn apart by informants, a nation's faith in its electorate shaken, a vibrant cultural climate replaced by one of suppression. Discuss the parallels and distinctions between the trauma of Chile's 9/11 events and those that occurred in the United States exactly twenty-eight years later.

I thought this was most interesting part of her story when she talked about what happened in Chile during Pinochet's takeover. It really is chiling to think of how quickly their society changed and so many people lost their lives unnecessarily. I had not been aware that the Pinochet take over happened on 9/11. She does talk a little bit about US involvment in South America which well depending on who you talk to can be seen as a good thing and or bad thing. Some of the parallels I can think of that come to my mind would be the Patriot Act which can take liberties if you come under any suspicion for whatever reason. Like in Chile if you didn't go along you were bullied into to doing so. Another parallel I between the two events was the sense of diorientation and anxiety/fear that people felt after 9/11. Where their going to be any more attacks? How do we stop a terrorist attack from happening again? What did this mean for America going forward?

9. My Invented Country is as much travelogue as memoir. What did you discover about the distinctions between various countries of South America, particularly Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela? How does Allende's South America compare to the other locales she has lived in, such as the Middle East and Europe?
In her book Allende's talks about not just Chile but neighboring countries in South America and how they are all a little different. In Venezula they are more outgoing and blunt (Chile is apparently very serious,uptight, prudis and the inhabitants tend to speak in euphenisms.). I don't really remember what she had to say about Europe but she talks a little bit about Lebanon being the "Paris of the Middle East" so a very cultured place.

11. In what sense does My Invented Country read like a novel?
When Allende talks about her wacky as hell family. One of the best parts of the book in my opinion.

13. In what ways is Allende a quintessential American?

I think she was in the way that she was going to be what she wanted to be, she was going to be true and authentic to herself and not what society or culture told her she had to be. She speaks throughtout the book that she never really fit in in Chile but she has felt more like herself since coming to San Francisco California. She has been able to do things or say things that in Chile would have caused a scandal or would have made her an outcast/misfit. She found her "home" as she was used to being a wanderer with no real ties or roots. Which the USA for all its issues and problems remains one of the foundations of the American Dream for better or for worse.


Rosemarie | 3307 comments Holly, I read the book a while ago but remember vividly that Chilean society was formal, cold and very classist. I also remember how she responded to the warmth of the Venezuelans.
I thought it was interesting that writing The House of the Spirits helped her through her difficult adjustment as an exile.


Holly (hollymlyon) | 6 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Holly, I read the book a while ago but remember vividly that Chilean society was formal, cold and very classist. I also remember how she responded to the warmth of the Venezuelans.
I thought it was..."


I have not read her book "House of Spirits" yet but I really enjoyed this book so I would like to read it soon.
It seems to me that the author was more warm and opininated than Chilean society would allow her to be.


message 11: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Holly wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "Holly, I read the book a while ago but remember vividly that Chilean society was formal, cold and very classist. I also remember how she responded to the warmth of the Venezuelans..."

House of the Spirits is amazing. I highly recommend it.


Holly (hollymlyon) | 6 comments Great! You the third person to reccomend it. I am going to reserve from the library tonight.


back to top