Classics Club: The House of Spirits

House

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.

The House of Spirits Read-Along: Final Recap

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Below is the chapter breakdown, with links to all the previous recaps.  I’ll do an overall review of the book tomorrow.

This final recap is for Chapters 13 and 14 and the Epilogue.  If you’re a little behind, that’s ok!  I’ll clearly mark any spoilers.

This week’s chapters put everything that happened previously into perspective; however, a handful of sentences in Chapter 13 made me so angry that I almost didn’t finish the book.

*Spoilers* A military coup takes place, and once they’ve seized power, they decide not to let it go.  Jaime is killed along with other supporters of the government, and from that point forward, people are regularly arrested and tortured.  Esteban helps Blanca and Pedro Tercero flee to Canada after he becomes disillusioned by the new regime.  The military eventually arrests Alba for associating with Miguel and helping people on the government blacklists to escape the country. She is tortured and raped by Colonel Esteban García, the son of Esteban Trueba’s and Pancha Garcia’s illegitimate son, and his men.  Alba decides she wants to die but changes her mind when she’s visited by Clara’s spirit.  Esteban gets Alba freed with the help of Miguel and Tránsito Soto, and after helping Alba write their memoir, he dies.  Alba explains that she will not seek revenge on Esteban Garcia and his men in the hopes of ending the cycle of hate. *End Spoilers*

I’m still too angry to discuss exactly why I feel that way as well as all the other problems I have with this book, so I will leave that for tomorrow’s review, in which I will also include the quote that angered me so much.  Suffice it to say that I’m glad I’m done with this book, and since it’s a physical copy, I can now put it in my book box to be sent to the used bookstore, the funds of which will go towards The Outlandish Companion, Vol. 2 by Diana Gabaldon when it comes out this October.  I can also cross it off my Classics Club list and add it to several of the challenges I’m participating in this year.  Silver lining.

What did you think of these final chapters?  All comments about the book are welcome, but please mark any spoilers.

The House of Spirits Read-Along: Week 5 Recap

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Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  There’s only one more recap to go, which I’ll be doing on the 15th, and then I’ll do an overall review of the book on the 16th.

This week’s recap is for Chapters 10, 11, and 12.  If you’re a little behind, that’s ok!  I’ll clearly mark any spoilers.

This week’s chapters were a little better than last weeks.

*Spoilers* Esteban kicks Nicolás out of the house and Nicolás supposedly moves to North America.  Blanca continues to secretly see Pedro.  Alba is sent to a British style girl’s school, and after that, she continues on to university, where she meets and falls in love with Miguel.  The two of them join a protest that the police manage to break up, but not before Alba begins bleeding heavily, gets returned home, and Miguel finds out that she’s Esteban’s granddaughter.  Later, the Socialist party wins the election, and the country is thrown into chaos as those on the Conservative side believe that the Soviets are going to show up any minute.  They begin clearing out bank accounts and fleeing the country.  Esteban and several others begin planning ways to bring down the government, which eventually leads to them deciding to use military force.  Alba is told by one of the Mora sisters that she should escape the country in order survive violent events in the future. *End Spoilers*

I’m really beginning to wonder what the point or message of this book is unless Allende is trying to tell us that men during this time, except maybe Socialists like Pedro or Jaime, were horrible? I find any story that tries to imply that a particular belief system automatically makes someone better than another to be suspect at best, and blatant propaganda at its worst.  So, I’m really not sure how I feel about this book altogether, but as of right now, I’m a bit irritated.

What do you think of the story so far?  All comments about the book are welcome, but please mark any spoilers.

The House of Spirits Read-Along: Week 4 Recap

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Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  I’m doing a recap each week, and in the end I’ll do an overall review of the book.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment!

This week’s recap is for Chapters 8 and 9.  If you’re a little behind, that’s ok!  I’ll clearly mark any spoilers.

This week’s chapters were boring and uneventful compared to last week’s chapters.  I hope the story picks back up soon.

*Spoilers*  Blanca gets along with her new husband until she finds out what is in his “laboratory”.  She flees back to her family’s home and barely makes it before giving birth to her daughter, who she names Alba.  Clara predicts that Alba will always be happy and healthy and have good luck.  Esteban continues to treat everyone in the family, except Alba, whom he adores, like garbage. The only other major event besides Alba’s birth is Clara’s death.  *End Spoilers*

What do you think of the story and the characters so far?  All comments about the book are welcome, but please mark any spoilers.

The House of Spirits Read-Along Week 3 Recap

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Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  I’m doing a recap each week, and at the end I’ll do an overall review of the book.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment!

This week’s recap is for Chapters 6 – 7.  If you’re a little behind, that’s ok!  I’ll clearly mark any spoilers.

SO.MUCH.DRAMA.  What is up with the men in this book?!

*Spoilers* We meet Jean de Satigny, who seems to be the type of guy who really doesn’t care what a woman thinks, and will seek shady ways of getting what he wants.  He reveals Blanca’s affair with Pedro Tercero to her father, but it eventually backfires on him when Blanca realizes she’s pregnant, and Esteban forces Jean to marry her, despite Jean no longer being interested.  The family is crazy, so I kind of don’t blame him, even if I do think he’s a weasel. I don’t foresee the marriage turning out well.  When Esteban is told about Blanca and Pedro, he chases off to find them.  He comes across Blanca and brutally whips her.  After Clara tries to criticize him, he hits her so hard that several of her teeth are knocked out.  Clara decides to never speak to him again and goes back to the city with Blanca.  Esteban goes on the hunt for Pedro Tercero and eventually finds him hiding out in a small shack. In trying to kill him, he only manages to cut off three of Pedro’s fingers.*End Spoilers*

What do you think of the story and the characters so far?  All comments about the book are welcome, but please mark any spoilers.

House of Spirits Read-Along: Week 2 Recap

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Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  I’m doing a recap each week, and at the end I’ll do an overall review of the book.  Originally, I was going to be doing the recaps on Sundays, but I decided that we all might need Sunday to catch up, at least I do, so I’m doing them on Mondays now.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment!

  • April 6th – 12th: Chapters 1 and 2
  • Apr. 13th – 19th: Chapters 3, 4, and 5
  • Apr. 20th – 26th: Chapters 6 and 7
  • Apr. 27th – May 3rd: Chapters 8 and 9
  • May 4th – 10th: Chapters 10, 11, and 12
  • May 11th – 15th: Chapter 13 to the end of the book

This week’s recap is for Chapters 3 – 5.  If you’re a little behind, that’s ok!  I’ll clearly mark any spoilers.

First off, I just have to scream NOOOOOO!  Why, Clara?!!!

*Spoilers* So Clara marries the rapist, Esteban, and of course, just when I’m starting to maybe like Férula, he goes and throws her out of the house because he’s jealous.  We also meet Blanca, Clara’s 1st child, and she falls in love with a peasant boy, Pedro.  Interspersed amongst these events are several deaths,a little bit of Socialism, a whole lot of earthquake, and a few other characters that seem to be minor ones.  I was about to be so happy when the house collapsed on top of Esteban, but the jerk just had to survive it, didn’t he?!*End Spoilers*

I can’t see this being a happy story for any of the characters, and I feel like this family is the Spanish equivalent of the Cleary’s in The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

What do you think of the story and the characters so far?  I hope you stick with me in continuing to read, but all comments about the book are welcome.

The House of Spirits Read-Along: Week 1 Recap

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My book for the Classics Club Spin #9 is The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, and as with the last Spin, I’m doing a read-along.  You don’t have to be a member of the Classics Club, but if you are, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your list!  Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  Each week I’ll do a recap, in which I will clearly mark any spoilers, and at the end I’ll do an overall review of the book.  If you’d like to join me, please add yourself to the linky!

  • April 6th – 12th: Chapters 1 and 2
  • Apr. 13th – 19th: Chapters 3, 4, and 5
  • Apr. 20th – 26th: Chapters 6 and 7
  • Apr. 27th – May 3rd: Chapters 8 and 9
  • May 4th – 10th: Chapters 10, 11, and 12
  • May 11th – 15th: Chapter 13 to the end of the book

This week’s recap is for Chapters 1 and 2.  I’ve read other books by Isabel Allende, and since I enjoyed them, I added The House of Spirits to my Classics Club list.  As I started reading, I started to doubt whether or not that was such a great decision.  However, since I also made the decision to do this read-along, I feel I should stick with the book, no matter what.

The story was confusing at first.  I don’t know why, but I had the impression that Barrabás was a man, the narrator was a woman, and Nana was the grandmother.  I was completely wrong about all three, but it took several pages to find that out.  On top of that, there’s a bit of magical realism, which is a literary style I’ve never enjoyed.  I don’t remember any of Isabel Allende’s other books having magical realism in them, but it’s possible that it was so subtle, my pre-college brain missed it.  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez is a completely different story, however, and that’s a book I willingly threw across the room with great force.  So, I groaned internally when I started seeing it in this book.  I like Clara and Barrabás, though.  I can’t stand Férula or Estaban, but I still want to find out what happens next.

What do you think of the story and the characters so far?  Do you enjoy or detest magical realism, and, if you can’t stand it, will that affect whether or not you continue reading?  I hope you stick with me in continuing to read, but all comments about the book are welcome.

Read-Along: The House of Spirits

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My book for the Classics Club Spin #9 is The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, and as with the last Spin, I’m doing a read-along.  You don’t have to be a member of the Classics Club, but if you are, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your list!  Below is the chapter breakdown that will take us all the way to May 15th.  Each week, I’ll do a recap, and at the end I’ll do an overall review of the book.  If you’d like to join me, please add yourself to the linky!

  • April 6th – 12th: Chapters 1 and 2
  • Apr. 13th – 19th: Chapters 3, 4, and 5
  • Apr. 20th – 26th: Chapters 6 and 7
  • Apr. 27th – May 3rd: Chapters 8 and 9
  • May 4th – 10th: Chapters 10, 11, and 12
  • May 11th – 15th: Chapter 13 to the end of the book