Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is my first encounter with Latin American magical realism (New York: Random, 2005). This epic saga follows three generations of a Chilean family – headed by the determined patriarch Esteban Truebas – as they experience joy, tragedy, struggle, rebellion, and political turmoil, in a world where the supernatural mingles alongside reality.
The House of the Spirits contains magic, ghosts, poison, and demonic possession, and it functions as an allegory of the South American world where Allende grew up. It is a novel designed to “reclaim the past” and “overcome the terrors” of Chilean history (433).
Allende successfully employs symbolism, mysticism, and nationalism in a vivid drama of political turmoil and feminist rebellion. And while the novel itself does not rank as great literature, it is an excellent example of lush storytelling and descriptive writing – a tale that resonates with the poetic musicality of the Latino language.
I would recommend The House of the Spirits to those readers seeking a unique, well-crafted, multi-cultural experience.