Author: Isabel Allende
The House of Spirits had been sitting on my TBR shelf for several years. I never had to read it while I was in school, and I bought it at a used bookstore during a time when I was actively collecting the kinds of books that it seemed everyone had read or at least popped up on the top 10, 50, 100 lists of books that must be read by everyone. I’ve already discussed my opinion on those lists before, so I’m not going to repeat myself, but this is one of those books that reinforces that opinion.
For those of you who followed the Read-Along, you already know I didn’t care for this book. The read-along is the only reason why I bothered to stick with it. Otherwise, I would have quit in the first week. In a way, I’m glad that I didn’t because otherwise, the only reason I would have had for labeling this a DNF was the magical realism, and I wouldn’t have discovered just how biased this book is. Not liking a book for that reason is considerably better than not liking it just because of my personal reading preferences.
“The coup gave them a chance to put into practice what they had learned in their barracks: blind obedience, the use of arms, and other skills that soldiers can master once they silence the scruples of their hearts.” (emphasis is mine)
This quote made me angrier than at any other time while reading this book. Allende needs to check herself and her bias. As a Veteran, I can say with absolute certainty that the obedience of soldiers is not blind, nor do they “silence the scruples of their hearts” in order to be good soldiers. This quote makes the military out to be full of uncaring automatons, and that’s flat out not true.
She is also naive if she believes that a Fascist military dictatorship is worse than a Marxist style of government. There has yet to be a Communist regime in the world that didn’t end up being a violent dictatorship that trampled all over people’s human rights. I understand that this story is a retelling of Chile’s history, but throughout the whole book the implication is that Socialists are better than everyone else. Look up the factual history about Che Guevara and how many people he executed without trial and then tell me a particular political ideology makes people infallible. I also understand that there is a slight difference between Socialism and Communism when put into practice, though both are based on the ideology of Karl Marx, but this book doesn’t really seem to distinguish the two, and the terms “Socialist”, “Marxist”, and “Communist” are used interchangeably. The whole thing comes off as propaganda for an ideology that history has shown isn’t viable and is so far Left that it ends up meeting and shaking hands with its opposite.
I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Isabel Allende, but it’s going to be a long time before I read another. This was her very first book, and when it was published in the United States means that, technically, it’s not a Classic, but it also makes me think that is why it became so popular, so quickly, and began to be taught in schools (though not any of the schools I attended). US foreign policy towards Latin America at the time took a stance of supporting anti-Communist governments no matter how horrible they were in regards to human rights, and many people were, understandably, outraged by that. This book and quite a few movies called attention to just how horrible a dictatorship can be. If it weren’t for the quote about soldiers and the obvious bias in favor of Socialism/Communism/Marxism, I probably would have enjoyed this book a bit more, despite the magical realism.