by Isabel Allende
translated by Magda Bogin
Four generations of an aristocratic and extremely eccentric Chilean family, tied together by the patriarch, Esteban Truebe, a hardworking conservative who marries Clara and becomes a wealthy man and a senator. His wife, a mystical clairvoyant with a loving heart, passes her peculiarities to her descendants, much to Trueba’s rage and dismay. Even as he rails again the communists and what he sees as the ridiculous behavior of his sons (one a dreamer and mystic, the other an obsessively dedicated doctor to the poor), the political countryside shifts, the left and the military battling for power.
Another epic – 430 pages – this book had me hooked at the first paragraph. Like Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, this is a blend of political criticism, comedy, magic, and an homage to the family, especially (albeit Trueba is the one consistent thread) matriarchy. Allende keeps the rich tapestry of so many years and events together through a variety of devices: hints of foreshadowing, two narrators (one in the first person), and Clara’s notebooks, which purportedly provide the material for the book itself. This is a grand book, filled with wonder, needless tragedy, great love, and in the end, a family that conquers pride and tyranny with love. A hugely entertaining and thought-provoking novel.