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To be honest if this hadn’t been the next read for my local book group I would never have read it. The reason being for this is because it does contain magic realism, something which I am not a big fan of.

We follow the Trueba family here which the story centres around, and it has to be admitted more around the female members, over a number of years. There is no mention of the country where this takes place but it seems pretty obviously to be Chile, where the author grew up and where her cousin was President of the country for a while. Due to this we can see some similarities between the author’s own family and the Trueba family that appear here, especially as we have both families involved in politics.

Following this family we have a peek into this post-Colonial world, which is in many ways similar to the whole of Latin America, giving perhaps a snapshot of the history of this vast expanse of land. To be honest I did not think that the magic realism added anything to the story and this would have worked just as well without it.

Taking in different periods we see how the socialists and communists fare and against the other parties and ideologies, and thus this takes in guerrillas, bribery, corruption and all the usual things we think of in times of political unrest. This does make for an interesting read, though at times you do find yourself thinking of Gabriel García Márquez, and his novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, and I think that this book by Isabel Allende has been translated into the same languages. As with the novel by García Márquez this does take some patience to read, and is therefore not something you can rush through, otherwise you will miss certain key elements.

In all quite an enjoyable and thoughtful read this will not appeal to everyone, and I can easily understand why some people will just give up reading it. This is far from perfect, and has met with some criticism over the years, but it still makes for a satisfying enough read.
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on 20 May 2017
Quite a weird book - may be it lost something in translation. We read it at book club and people either loved it or hated it. Some very odd bits, for example the way the family get used to grabbing the condiments when they have visitors for dinner. (Read the book to find out why). I don't think I will read another book by the same author.
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on 28 March 2017
Her first and best
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on 12 June 2017
A great read
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on 14 April 2013
'The House of the Spirits' was a book that I had introduced to me through an English literature class. A blessing with a work as multi-layered as 'The House of the Spirits', where dissecting it truly helped to grapple with the purpose and principles behind Allende's writing. Stylistically, the book is a fantastic reflection of Allende's magical realism - taking reality and twisting it into something where the mystical and unnatural are intertwined with the everyday. A family saga of Soprano-like proportions (with similar levels of betrayal and violence), 'The House of the Spirits' is one that you will find yourself coming back to time and again.

'The House of the Spirits' (set in an unnamed country - but well recognised to be Chile) follows three generations of the Trueba family, opening with the story of the del Valles and their young daughters, Rosa and Clara. Clara is set-apart from the outset through her talent for clairvoyance and her prediction of the death of her sister (also fiancee of the central male character, Esteban Trueba), Rosa. It is after the subsequent marriage of Esteban and Clara that the novel truly gains momentum, following the couple as they move to the remote hacienda, Tres Marias. At Tres Marias, in his capacity as the hacienda's patron, Esteban's brutality and cruelty are brought into sharp focus. The novel introduces a number of parallel story lines, diverging most notably after the birth of Esteban and Clara's three children - their daughter Blanca and twin sons Jaime and Nicolas. Blanca's affair with the lower-class folk musician Pedro Tercero Garcia, which leads Esteban to a violent confrontation with the boy, results in a break-down of relations between Esteban and Clara (in fact, she never speaks to him again) and the introduction of our third Trueba generation - Blanca's daughter, Alba. Forming what is essentially the novel's second part, the family relocate to the city and move into the Trueba's 'House on the Corner'. The saga continues with Esteban's decision to become involved in conservative politics and Alba's simultaneous love affair with the revolutionary Miguel. Bringing the novel to its climax, the country undergoes a military coup, in which the trials, tragedies, and tribulations that have haunted the Trueba family through its three generations are brought to a head. We find Esteban forced to confront the violence of his past, question the principles of class superiority and self-interest that have motivated his actions, and realise that there is no escaping the demons that you create.

'The House of the Spirits' is a story of true complexity. It is a family saga of epic proportions, detailing not only the lives of the three Trueba generations, but doing so in a manner that explores themes of class-conflict and the cycle of violence. It provides a social narrative from personal perspective. Allende's skill undoubtedly lies in her ability to detail historical reality in a manner that makes the reader invested in its outcome. While the anonymity that Allende applies to the places and key historical figures means that you could read this novel without appreciating the historical nature of the book, missing this theme would be to miss Allende's motivation. As the granddaughter of Salvador Allende (the socialist president of Chile deposed by the military coup depicted in the plot), Isabel Allende has written 'The House of the Spirits' as a fundamentally political novel. But it is not political in the sense of affiliation, promoting a choice between socialism and liberalism. Rather, the political point is one of sympathy and solidarity. It is a point about what social conflict can do to a country - where a break-down of understanding between people can lead to a situation in which common humanity is forgotten.

If you choose to pick up this book, you will be faced with a story of terror and fear, redemption and reconciliation. You will feel, after finishing the final pages, that you know the Trueba family as well as any other. Because they, like your own family, will make you laugh, think, despair, and grieve. This is a book that I have re-read on numerous occasions, and I find myself constantly surprised by the strength of my reaction to it. Whoever you are and whatever your situation in life when you read this book, I can promise you that it is one you will remember.
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on 26 January 2013
Picked this up from a friends recommendation - It is a sweeping read covering lots of history and written with pace at the beginning. Like some readers i to found this disconcerting - until the final magnificent chapters that bought it all together. For me, I understood the early years were more scant in detail and based on someone else's recollections. The final chapters put this into context and the pace slows to real time to a truely profoundly powerful and satisfing end. Suffise to say i now want to read more of her work!!
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on 18 November 2013
I am not sure why this book hasn't received more acclaim. The passion and grief of the author for the fate of her beloved country are so evident. These drive the book and form a basis for the magic that emerges. I love the change of tone and meaning when Allende swaps first person for third. The family are so lovingly and clearly drawn and the generations are shown in the significance if each to the other. There is a tremendous and tragic momentum to the plot with an ending that is emotionally difficult to read. As far as I am concerned, this author is a giant of her craft.
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on 20 September 2015
This is a fantastic book; well worth a read. Took me a long time but it was worth it. The genre is 'Magical Realism' and is exactly as it sounds. It has magic, but presented in a believable way. I think it is ingenious that Isabel Allende is able to create that balance between reality any magic in this story. To have such a political backdrop with this other polarized theme makes the book so interesting.

I would definitely recommend this book and I will definitely read it again some time in the future.
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on 3 February 2013
Isabel Allende's grandmother had a large but much loved dog. After the dog died, her husband thoughtfully presented her with its skin, made into a rug. This wonderfully bizarre family story, which speaks volumes about a relationship, was - according to Allende - one of the starting points for The House of the Spirits. The book began as a long letter to her 99-year-old grandfather, whilst Allende was a political exile from the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. In it, she tried to capture the stories and memories that surrounded her family and her country - a writing commitment that gradually evolved into a novel. The result is vivid, quirky, and exhuberant. Exotic as well - at least for the British reader - not only for its South American location but also for its cast of peasants, robbers, barons, autocrats, and troubadors. Perhaps it is longer than it should be, as family sagas often are, but The House of the Spirits is nonetheless a novel of considerable vitality and charm.
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on 10 October 2008
I have never read a book where so many characters are delved into so deeply. Allende is a wonderful story teller, and the narrative being interspersed with individual character opinions makes it all the better. I had to limit my reading every day so I would not get through it too quickly. Even if you have no interest in the Chilean revolution, this book is a must read. It's a shame that the rest of her books never quite made it up to this standard.
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