Book Club Notes – The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende – Spoilers!

It’s interesting to see what other people find important in books and how peculiar people are in relation to what you find normal or acceptable. For this book, I found some of my book club members had so odd things to say. But hey that’s just me.

All in all, we all enjoyed the book. It drew us into a weird and wonderful journey. The authors writing was direct and to the point. She gave equal weight to all part of the book from the horrible to the sweet. The author never lingered on anything and it made the book feel floaty but equal and non-judgmental. The magical realism was a part of the everyday and was written matter-of-factly. Giving everything from horror to magic equal weight in the text is not what we normally read, and it was nice and refreshing to read.

However, we all had an issue with the length of paragraphs and chapters. There seemed to not be any natural break and at one point the paragraph went on for over two pages. Still the text flowed easily, and you could get lost in the writing. Several fell asleep reading due to the easy flow and no natural breaks.

The story seemed to be divided into wo sections, the family story, and the political landscape. In the beginning the family is front and center while at the end it changes. The family plot line felt like a meandering river, casual and never ending. The political plot line was much more dramatic and horrific. It felt like the political plot line was always the main plot but only came to the surface when the revolution happened. This could reflect real life. How politics only becomes important when everything changes, and it affect your life directly. Nothing in this book felt random, it was all intentional and had a point.

For things that was confusing, it took us some time to figure out the changes in the narrative from 1st person to 3rd person, but it made sense later. Also, all the Perdos was confusing in the beginning but then It became obvious the second name was a succession of names. It took us all long time to separate them properly. There was a missing link between Pancha (Estebans first rape victim) and Esteban Garcia (the cruel guy who became Alba’s torturer). For a long time, this missing link was not mentioned, and we questioned if it was the grandson or son of Pancha. It did not help that non-one has their age mentioned and the time frames are jumpy. There were also people who were mentioned once and the disappeared only to be brought back in and then we didn’t remember who they were.

For all the confusion, there was one mystery that added to the mystical air of the story instead of add confusing and that was the placement. Not once was the location of the story (country) ever mentioned. We believe it was Chile but its never mentioned.

Someone was also a bit confused about the importance of the dog who we imagined to be anything from a Great Dane to a Lurcher. He seemed to be there ethe whole way through and we didn’t understand why or the importance or it. He wasn’t the nicest dog, but he was protective of Clara just like Esteban, and maybe that’s the only importance?

For the stuff we did not like, this included some areas feeling homophobic, the language used for black, PoC, and indigenous people and children with learning difficulties. Yes, we know it’s an older book (80s) but it was just a bit too far for us.

Estaban’s sister, Ferula, story line was sad, but we questioned whether she was labelled a lesbian because of her sad plot line and therefore giving a homophobic attitude towards the character showing that being a lesbian will only bring you sorrow. Or whether Ferula herself brough it upon herself by deciding to care for her mother as the only female in the family therefore putting herself in a position of sadness and trauma that affected her life later on.

Let’s not forget how horrible Estaban was, and he is the main character. Why did we enjoy the book when the main character was walking around raping teenagers? Should a character be likable for us to enjoy the story and the book? Clearly the writing came into play here. Yes, Esteban is a horrible person and challenges your view on things, but the writing makes you want to read more. That is the skill of the author. However, why did Alba love her grandfather so much when she knew the things he had done? Is it because we always make excuses for family? Again, nothing int is book feels random. There is a reason behind everything.

We did like how the story clearly showed Esteban getting stuck in his own past due to fear of loosing power while technology and the world around him progressed as time changed.

WE also liked how Esteban’s never find happiness and never seems content. But also, he never fails massively. Yes, he crumbles in places but always finds a way back up. Out of all the characters he is the most troubled however, his childhood does not defend his way of being or his action. Which makes him seem more real and makes us stay at a distance from him. He seems normal in comparison to all these magical women around him. He represents the real life.

Everything that happens in the book are there to challenge us as readers. All the good people die young (Rosa and Jaime). While the bad people held on for what felt forever. But the text does not feel challenging to read. It was written to make you immune to the troubling things. Lots of inappropriate stuff going on in the book between the characters. It was not easy to see while you read it. It felt like the author took it too far at times, but they passed over it quickly like drops of horror throughout the book. We did not fully realize all the issues with the events before after we read the book and start discussing it. When we think about it the story was brutal but written in a floaty way. Someone compared how its written to American Psycho. The book is easy to read and stay with and then all this horrible stuff jumps out at you. You got quite immune to the troubling stuff in the book.

We did question whether the ending was happy or not? The realism of the brutality is stuff that people are living through now and has been going through in the past. It is a valuable story. We are glad I read it. We enjoy it being over and happy it has been read, but we struggled to get through some parts.

The epilogue was not an epilogue but a chapter. It felt like the author wanted to finish at the chapter before. However, it felt like it should have been longer. In comparison to the rest of the book the epilogue felt short and brief. It was powerful and brutal and should be more focus on. It should have been its own chapter.

All in all, this book is about women. Women focus on unity and development while men focus on power and destruction though out the entire book. There is a lot of quiet strength both with the book and with the female characters in the book.

We would have liked just a little bit more magical realism. It was strong in the beginning and then it faded. Also, the magic lacked some structure. It felt very random.

Book club meeting success!!

Until next time; happy reading!

2 thoughts on “Book Club Notes – The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende – Spoilers!

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