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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits

Graciela, November 28, 2013

This book is the literary equivalent of Picasso's "Guernica": melancholy, visceral, and historically relevant. Set in a Latin American country (implied to be Chile), "The House of the Spirits" chronicles three generations of an affluent family whose entire existence begins to fall under threat from political reactionaries. The novel's focus, however, is primarily on the ever-growing, occasionally twisted branches of this family tree. Nearly all the named characters are described prior to the events that induce their transformations, yet Allende's poetic language makes this high volume of necessary exposition just as enjoyable as the dialogue. Despite the book's dark themes, the ending is poignantly hopeful, and the constant elements of magical realism and dry humor prevent it from being a downer. As a bonus, "The House of the Spirits" passes the Bechdel test with flying colors; in fact, only one of the four main characters is male, and all the women have distinct personalities, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. I definitely think this book is worth owning.
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