Allende’s debut novel blends history and domestic drama to tell the story of four generations of a family. The setting is a Latin American country a lot like the author’s native Chile, where her cousin Salvador Allende was overthrown in a CIA-assisted coup in 1973. The author herself went into exile, and she began the book as a letter to her dying grandfather while she was living in Venezuela. The result is a novel that operates in a variety of registers. There are magical realism elements here, but to read the book on such terms exclusively is to miss its larger significance. Rather, this is a work in which the political is the personal and characters are defined by not only who they are but also where they’re from.
‘The House of the Spirits’
Isabel Allende’s novel is the California Book Club’s March 2023 selection.
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