Isabel Allende might be my favorite latin writer. Her books have often inspired me to the point that I would even name my first daughter “Paula” after her autobiographic book/letter to her daughter, even though she suffers an untimely death, there is something about her kindness and intelligence that makes her short life a full one. I feel the connection to the south american culture in general that is actually very different from mexico or central america, even though everyone just assumes we are all the same. At the same time I also think that she portrays us in a very accurate way so that people from around the world, though they may not feel identified, can actually experience things from our point of view. Thats probably why her books have been translated into several languages.
Her first book “La casa de los espiritus” (House of spirits) talks about Chile’s history through three generations of a family, until right after the horrid coup de êtat that made Pinochet a military dictator. Combined with fantasy, romance, activism, and historically accurate events it’s the recipe for a classic. Something very particular about this book is that it starts from the point of view of a girl and her husband, after a while it transitions into her daughter’s point of view, but the husband also keeps on telling his part of the story, and the third part is told from the grand daughter’s point of view. It is very interesting to feel the change in every generation of women and see how similar they are but with their own way of perceiving the world. The book starts very light talking about life in the farm and in the house with fantasy and visiting spirits, it progresses into different themes like arranged marriage and forbidden love, until it reaches the point where it gets political and very graphic when it describes the horrors of the dictatorship. In a way, it may be a cautionary tale.
There is a reason why there are so many world war two movies, books, museums, etc. People don’t want to let the world forget the tragedy in the hopes that it doesn’t repeat itself. Isabel Allende does the same thing, she always include that theme in every book she write. And who could blame her? she had to flee her own country just because of her last name, and her father wasn’t even around to raise her, let alone to actually consider herself a relative to Salvador Allende (her uncle). There are infinite stories of torture and lost souls during the time of dictatorships in south america, and I’m not only talking about Chile. They let it happen because they were afraid of communism, it shows that everything in excess is bad no matter what side of the spectrum you are in.