The House of Spirits (Pre-review thoughts)

The house of the spiritsI’m about 3/4th of the way through Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits, and I have a lot of thoughts to sort out before the official (and most likely short) review. There is a lot packed in this book. I’ve been reading it for over two weeks now, mostly because of the writing style. It constantly¬†undulates from interesting to boring. The entire piece is written in the passive “let me tell you everything” instead of showing style of writing. It gets really frustrating at times, because I would like to know what is going on in the minds of the characters, not just what their outward appearances and actions tell me. The only character whose perspective we hear from is Esteban Trueba. I’m still trying to decide why she choose him, of all the characters. Is it to humanize him? He is incredibly dreadful in the book.

I would have liked to hear from one of the brothers, Nicholas or Jaime. They both took such interesting, dark turns in their lives. Why did they make those choices?

So much in this book is left unexplained. I am at once interested in the characters, but put-off by the narrative. It makes the book tricky to get through and it makes me wonder if I want to pick up another one of her books after this one.

It is an epic family saga, much like Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Victor Villasenor’s Wild Steps of Heaven, and I’ve heard it compared to Gabriel Marquez Garcia’s 100 Years of Solitude.

For the most part, I think she did an effortless job of transitioning through the generations and family members. They are all interwoven, the old and the young with their own stories, one shining more than the other as the years progress. I don’t dislike the novel, I just wish there was more variety in perspective between the characters. They all seem so rich, layered and full of secrets and knowledge, yet we as readers are kept at an arm’s length distance from it all.

Has anyone else whose read this book found the same frustrations as I have?

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