Book Review

THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS by Isabel Allende

Rating: 3.5 / 5

One of the bonus prompts in this year’s Reading Women Challenge was to read a book by Isabel Allende. When reviewing her backlist THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS was her highest rated title so I added it to my TBR for February.

THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is a family saga following three generations of the Trueba family. There are two POVs in the book. Esteban gives us a first person account of his life from the loves of his life to his rise to wealth and power. The second POV is a third person account which gives a wider perspective, though focuses a lot on the women in the family. The story follows Esteban and his wife Clara, a woman with the power to see that which others cannot including things that haven’t yet happened. Their daughter Blanca and grand daughter Alba continue on at the center of the story as they branch out from Esteban’s strict control, daring to challenge and hope for change.

I have to admit that this book was a struggle for me originally. This was definitely an issue of picking up the wrong book at the wrong time. I tried to start on this one early in February when I had been dealing with some headaches and not doing a lot of reading in print so picking up a novel with 50 page chapters and paragraphs that could last for a couple pages probably was the wrong choice. I elected to set it aside and came back to it later in the month on audio and I found it much more approachable in that format. The audio is done with two narrators for the two POVs which I think really aided in the reading process and improved my enjoyment of the story.

There were a lot of things I liked about the story. I thought Isabel Allende’s writing was beautiful and I would absolutely love to pick up more by her. I enjoyed the way she intermingled very real situations with magical realism. There was also humor that I appreciated, often on the dark side which worked for me.

This is not an easy read. Esteban loves his wife and his family, but his POV also gives us his perspective on how he treats women in general. From visiting prostitutes to delighting in taking a woman by force, there were some difficult parts to read. The language and feelings about homosexuals, mostly from Esteban’s POV again were also at times a difficulty while true to his character. The book goes quite a bit into politics from Esteban’s ambitions to Alba’s protests which have her being treated brutally by those in power.

Over all I had mixed feelings on this one, but was hooked to keep reading to learn what happened to the Trueda family and I would absolutely look to read more by Isabel Allende.

Reading Challenges:

#ReadingWomenChallenge – a book by Isabel Allende

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