Despite the 20-year-old protagonist being a bit too precocious, the verdict was a strong thumbs-up. An insightful portrait of the contemporary American scene, with elements of tragedy and sardonic humor.
As for House of the Spirits — everyone liked it. Most people read the book. But we all noticed the switch from magical realism to almost brutal realism in the very last part of the book when the military junta takes over.
Mary Ellen watched the movie, which emphasized the love story.
Priscilla said when she read it years ago, she paid attention mainly to the love stories. Now she was struck by the vast social picture the book painted. I agree, the book is a deep portrait of an entire society. I’d recently read The Leopard by Lampedusa, which depicts the transition from a feudal, aristocratic society in Sicily to a unified Italy and the rise of the bourgeoisie. There are many similarities between the two books, including scenes of lovers exploring a rambling mansion and hiding away in the maze of secret rooms to make love.
A society is somewhat like a house with many rooms, some so remote that the owners are hardly aware of their existence or the ghosts and living beings who inhabit them.
Both books depict the demise of an aristocracy that had degenerated with the rise of modernity. In Allende’s novel, at the end, a prostitute is the only one who can forge an accommodation between the old ruling class gentry and the military junta that replaces it. Ironies abound. Villains are partly redeemed. And the heroes, perhaps, are the women who endure despite the hardships that are visited on them by the more powerful men in their lives.
Here is a podcast of a radio interview I did with Francesca Rheanon on the Writer’s Voice on WMUA, as part of a show on the Mount Holyoke Write Angles conference on Saturday, November 21. I’m there talking about mysteries.