- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (5 Feb. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007269498
- ISBN-13: 978-0007269495
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Sum of Our Days Paperback – 5 Feb 2009
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'No amount of acrobatics can out do the absolute core of Allende's talent: her gift for writing. She can bring even the most inert subjects to life, breathing vitality into them through her prose; if only books were people, her beloved daughter Paula would once again be alive and well.' The Times
'The reader is swept along by the energy of her prose, her brilliance as a story-teller, and the sheer force and warmth of personality.' Michael Jacobs, Independent
'If she wrote Paula as a redemptive exercise in grieving, “The Sum of Our Days” is written in the spirit of thanksgiving. Allende looks on with powerless awe as her grandchildren grow up and out of her control. As ever, her writing glows with generosity and affection for all those around her.' Sunday Telegraph
'Full of life and candid self-revelation "The Sum of Our Days" is a fine vivacious and inspiring memoir about moving on from tragedy and making life bright again.' Melissa Katsoulis, FT
'Positively bursting with love, hilarity and crazy good times: sex, drugs and lesbian Buddhist monks abound in this rollicking tale of the Allende clan's life in their Californian castle, and you'll feel a hundred times richer for reading.' Sunday Telegraph, 'Summer Reading’
From the Author
THE SUM OF OUR DAYS
The Sum of Our Days is the most difficult book I have written. It starts where Paula ends - in l993 - and covers the recent thirteen years of our family in California. It is a long conversation with the spirit of my daughter in which I tell her what has happened to her family since she died. It has been a rather eventful time, to say the least: success and losses, great love and just as much conflict, joy and separation, births and deaths, drugs, divorce, arranged marriages, all the stuff that usually happens to people, but one has to use cautiously in a novel. Melodrama is part of life but literary critics eviscerate the author when they find it in a book.
I met Willie Gordon in Northern California, on a book-tour in l987. We fell in love, got married and thus I became an immigrant in the United States. Immediately I started the process of adapting to a new country and putting together an extended family because I could not imagine a life without it. Willie's family was dysfunctional: three of his children had serious problems with drugs and the law, so they were practically out of the picture for many years. I convinced my son Nico and his wife, to move from Venezuela to California. They had three kids in four years, so I had my grandchildren at hand. Also my daughter Paula and her husband, Ernesto, who were in Spain, announced that they too wanted to live closer to us. Unfortunately Paula suffered a porphyria crisis in Madrid, fell in a coma and ended up with severe brain damage. By the time she finally arrived in our house, she was in a vegetative state. Within a year, both my daughter and Willie's daughter died. And then it was as if our family had been cursed with the evil eye; we had one tragedy after the other for what seemed like an eternity, until eventually our bad luck run its course and one day the sun was shining again for us. Not all was bad. We never lacked the really important stuff: love, trust and good humor. We even managed to expand our little tribe by "adopting" friends in the roles of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Now I have six grandchildren, although they are not all blood related.
In The Sum of the Days I had the kind of problems that I seldom encounter with a novel because it is a very personal story. Paula is also a personal memoir but it is mostly about people who are either deceased or far away, so few of them could complain, while the characters of The Sum of Our Days are alive and very close. As my son Nico says: too bad that we have a writer among us. My answer is that we have nothing to hide; we have not committed any major crime that I know of. We shouldn't feel vulnerable by revealing about our family, as I have done in Paula, The Sum of Our Days and innumerable interviews. It is not the truth that makes us vulnerable, but our secrets.
I suppose that I am a born liar and that's why I feel so comfortable writing fiction, where I create the story, and I shape the destinies of my characters. If I so desire, I can kill them on page 60 (and that is what usually happens to beautiful females in my books). My only problem with fiction is to make it believable. A memoir, however, is an attempt to tell the truth, and truth usually is less believable than fiction.
In a memoir I don't control the plot, the characters or the outcome, I can only decide the tone and what to omit, but for a storyteller that is not really a choice. Even at the risk of getting in trouble with the people I love the most, I have to tell the whole story. Then, why tackle a memoir? Because I need to remember. What I don't write it, I forget, and then it is as if it never happened; by writing about my life I can live twice. When I announced to my family that I was writing about all of us, there was an uproar among our ranks: why on earth! I quoted the fable of the toad and the scorpion. The toad carried the scorpion across the river and when they were reaching the other side the scorpion bit him. Before sinking, the toad asked why he had done it - they would both perish - and the scorpion replied: it's my nature, I can't help it. Writers write, it's their nature, so my unfortunate family has to put up with me.
Memory and imagination are similar processes in the brain; they are both subjective and unreliable. Fortunately, I have been writing letters to my mother for more than three decades, in which I tell her the events, the feelings, and even the dreams of every day. In those daily letters all is recorded with the spontaneous tone of a conversation in the kitchen. At the end of each year she returns them to me, and they are now stored in a closet in my house. To write The Sum of Our Days I did not have to stress my memory or my imagination, just open the packages and select what I was going to tell. I see my life in Technicolor, on a big screen, like an epic movie, so I had to write about the highlights and shadows, but I chose to ignore the boring grays in between.
Of course, my small family had to read the manuscript. Half of them don't speak Spanish, so Margaret Sayer Peden, who has worked with me for almost twenty-five years, translated it into English. One by one, the members of the family confronted me with their versions. In some cases it was long and painful but in every instance it helped me to deepen into the stories and discover new aspects of these people that I thought I knew so well. With their help I rewrote the book and this time I did a much better job.
The Sum of Our Days was published in Spanish in September of 2007 and since then I have received hundreds of email messages and letters from readers that now feel as part of my family. The response has been as moving as the one I got for Paula but in a different mood because this is not a book about death, it is a celebration of life. I hope that you will also feel connected to my tribe.
Isabel Allende --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Following on from Paula - Isabel write's from the heart for Daughter informing her of the changes that have taken place since she passed away.
The book is so well written in true Isabel Allende style - a must read for all fans and new readers to will enjoy this wonderful story.
Allende's candour about herself and her family is both shocking and delightful. Her relationship with her American husband and with her children and all the rest of her tribe is always totally over-the-top, passionate to the point of madness. Her self-criticism is comically transparent: she describes herself as the mother-in-law from hell and one can believe it, though it makes hell seem so attractive. Like her novels, every word transmits her unending joy - even, paradoxically, during paralysing depression - in being alive, in being a witness to the miracle of humanity, of individuality, of love. But above all, this book is extremely funny and there are moments which made me laugh till I wept.
Read this book if you need to feel good, really good, about the world and about people. Surely, right now, we all do.
My friends who had read her fiction found it more interesting and those who were familiar with her life story from the previous book enjoyed it, but I really don't think this stands-up as an independent book. This edition has very small text which is close together and I found quite difficult to read despite having very good vision.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am still reading it. Isabel Allende presents her family and now extended family in a very personal way. Read morePublished on 20 Dec. 2013 by Judy Kelly nee Marks
i love this book. i am a great fan of allende, she creates such a wonderful world. the book came in excellent condition very quickly. Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2012 by Sophie Jarman
How can anyone read this and retain any sympathy for Isabel Allende and her husband. They have destroyed their children. Read morePublished on 20 Aug. 2012 by singinghinny
Having read Paula and the House of Spirits, I found this fascinating and I often found myself absorbed into Isabel Allende's way of viewing the way around her. Read morePublished on 1 Mar. 2011 by Chris
It is a very interesting book, like all the books that Isabel Allende writes. And it was very "nice" to know what happened to her, and all her thoughts after her daughets death.Published on 26 Dec. 2009 by Katarina Wesslen-Lindahl