The House of The Spirits by Isabelle Allende

The House of The Spirits by Isabelle Allende is about Esteban Trueba and the misfortunes of his long, extended family over countless generations. Beginning with the Clara de Valle and her magical abilities, the story starts with her Uncle Marcos and his tales of adventure. Then it transitions to Clara’s prediction of her marrying Esteban Trueba, her passed sister, Rosa’s, fiancé. Only after they are married does Esteban realize Clara’s magical abilities and accepts them as they are. The story progresses through their three children, their estate in Tres Marias, and Esteban’s illegitimate children, specifically Esteban Garcia. The oldest, Blanca, falls in love with a local-future musician at their estate and gives birth to a girl named Alba. The twins, Jamie and Nicolas, pursue different careers. Jamie pursues medicine and charity, Nicolas pursues a higher understanding of life and his mother’s telepathic attributes. Esteban Trueba’s illegitimate son, Esteban Garcia, starts a dictatorship across the country of Chile.

The story itself is one of the most well written novels I have read in a long time, if not in my life. Without giving away the ending or the main struggles of the characters in my summary, there’s a clear, distinct relationship between each of the characters. Esteban struggles with his relationships with everyone in his life, from his mother to wife to children. Clara lives in her own realm and isn’t the best wife or mother or caregiver until it is required of her. Each of the children struggle in their own respects, dependent on the influence of their father in their lives, whether they like it or not.

The character development is extremely strong, the plot is driven by the characters and everything they do. Most importantly, this story embodies the concept of magic realism to its finest. Magic realism is a concept in literature in which unrealistic things have the possibility to be common place in this realm. Similar to 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez embodies many of the similar qualities, and is a more popular novel to bring traction to the concept. Essentially, the magic in the novel goes beyond what is blatantly said from Clara’s magical abilities. Each character’s actions influences aspects of the novel that are not apparent at first glance but only after careful consideration.

The novel, originally published in 1982, has been translated into 37 other languages and had a film adaptation featuring Meryl Streep and Winona Ryder. The novel has extreme traction and success, through it’s fame and the success of how it works as a novel. I highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in Latino, or in particular Chilean, history or anyone with a particular interest in magic realism.


Emily Goleski


One thought on “The House of The Spirits by Isabelle Allende

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  1. Your enthusiasm for the book comes through clearly, and you’ve managed to convey key elements of the work without spoiling it for us. A couple suggestions to make the review stronger:

    1. Provide at least a taste of the writer’s language through a brief quote or two. For example, you could include a phrase from the book that shows us how “Clara lives in her own realm”, or a couple sentences about the children’s struggles.

    2. Provide a reason why we need a book review of a work that came out over twenty years ago. This is possible, but trickier that my previous suggestion. Usually, book reviews address new books. To make this more than a book report, give us a reason to (re)see the novel’s contemporary relevance. Perhaps you could frame it as a good introduction to magical realism or Chilean-American literature… or even to Allende herself, who has gone on to write many more novels?


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