Still working...


Isabel Allende’s latest work is a bit of a disappointment for me, as her last couple of efforts have been–disappointing only because I have come to expect the awesome from her, and this doesn’t quite reach that standard .
Inés of My Soul is an historical novel, an interesting and well-crafted book, about the founding of Chile, told by and through the eyes of Inés Suárez, mistress of the country’s conqueror and ruler,Pedro Valdivia. Inés a strong and contradictory woman, scrabbles her way first out of her confining Spanish family, then out of Spain, then out of Peru, into prominence in early Santiago. She has Latin passions that make her a force wherever she lands and peasant skills to make her independent of those who would put her in thrall. She is healer, sex therapist, warrior, cook, and seamstress.
Allende tells the story skillfully and with great sympathy. Yet, there’s flatness to the tale.  Too much history and not enough novel, perhaps. She declares that the book is a work of the intuition rather than that of the historian, and I would have her use even more of that famed intuition. There are threads that shine enough to hint what that the book would be like if she did. The subplot of the poor Indian boy who appears mysteriously, then disappears years later, then reappears in an astounding form that brings huge surprise and crisis to the embryonic Spanish settlements is one of those. Inés’ imagined visitations by her husband toward the end of her life and of the book are another. Had Allende managed to exploit more of these kinds of surprises and fantasies and that kind of suspense, the work might have been utterly extraordinary. And there is no lack of such opportunities in the historical record. Pizzaro’s famed betrayal of the Incan ruler Atahualpa, the scheming among the Pizarro brothers as they rape and plunder their way through Peru and beyond, the fact that all these conquistadores (Cortez, too) came from Extremadura, the same tiny corner of Spain where Inés herself was born. All this cries for the kind of spiritual and imaginary connection that I love in Allende. As a result, this excellent novel fails to soar as it could and should given the subject matter and the skills of the author.
However, I carp too much, I think. This is a well-told tale about a fascinating, woman, neglected by history, in an era of history and geographical setting most Americans know almost nothing about. I learned a great deal and had a good time doing it. That, and a glass of good Chilean chardonnay—who could ask more of a book or of life?
sitting up clapping

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts