Ines of My Soul (Allende)

Ines of My Soul
Isabel Allende, 2006
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780061161544

Born into a poor family in Spain, Ines, a seamstress, finds herself condemned to a life of hard work without reward or hope for the future. It is the sixteenth century, the beginning of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and when her shiftless husband disappears to the New World, Ines uses the opportunity to search for him as an excuse to flee her stifling homeland and seek adventure. After her treacherous journey takes her to Peru, she learns that her husband has died in battle. Soon she begins a fiery love affair with a man who will change the course of her life: Pedro de Valdivia, war hero and field marshal to the famed Francisco Pizarro.

Valdivia's dream is to succeed where other Spaniards have failed: to become the conquerer of Chile. The natives of Chile are fearsome warriors, and the land is rumored to be barren of gold, but this suits Valdivia, who seeks only honor and glory. Together the lovers Ines Suarez and Pedro de Valdivia will build the new city of Santiago, and they will wage a bloody, ruthless war against the indigenous Chileans—the fierce local Indians led by the chief Michimalonko, and the even fiercer Mapuche from the south. The horrific struggle will change them forever, pulling each of them toward their separate destinies.

Ines of My Soul is a work of breathtaking scope: meticulously researched, it engagingly dramatizes the known events of Ines Suarez's life, crafting them into a novel full of the narrative brilliance and passion readers have come to expect from Isabel Allende. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—August 2, 1942
Where—Lima, Peru
Education—private schools in Bolivia and Lebanon
Awards—Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 1998; Sara Lee
   Foundation Award, 1998; WILLA Literary Award, 2000
Currently—lives in San Rafael, California, USA

Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition. Author of more than 20 books—essay collections, memoirs, and novels, she is perhaps best known for her novels The House of the Spirits (1982), Daughter of Fortune (1999), and Ines of My Soul (2006). She has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author." All told her novels have been translated from Spanish into over 30 languages and have sold more than 55 million copies.

Her novels are often based upon her personal experience and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many American colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English as a second language, Allende was granted American citizenship in 2003, having lived in California with her American husband since 1989.
Early background
Allende was born Isabel Allende Llona in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Francisca Llona Barros and Tomas Allende, who was at the time the Chilean ambassador to Peru. Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973, making Salvador her first cousin once removed (not her uncle as he is sometimes referred to).

In 1945, after her father had disappeared, Isabel's mother relocated with her three children to Santiago, Chile, where they lived until 1953. Allende's mother married diplomat Ramon Huidobro, and from 1953-1958 the family moved often, including to Bolivia and Beirut. In Bolivia, Allende attended a North American private school; in Beirut, she attended an English private school. The family returned to Chile in 1958, where Allende was briefly home-schooled. In her youth, she read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

From 1959 to 1965, while living in Chile, Allende finished her secondary studies. She married Miguel Frias in 1962; the couple's daughter Paula was born in 1963 and their son Nicholas in 1966. During that time Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, Chile, then in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe.

Returning to Chile in 1996, Allende translated romance novels (including those of Barbara Cartland) from English to Spanish but was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue in order to make the heriones sound more intelligent. She also altered the Cinderella endings, letting the heroines find more independence.

In 1967 Allende joined the editorial staff for Paula magazine and in 1969 the children's magazine Mampato, where she later became editor. She published two children's stories, Grandmother Panchita and Lauchas y Lauchones, as well as a collection of articles, Civilice a Su Troglodita.

She also worked in Chilean television from 1970-1974. As a journalist, she interviewed famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda told Allende that she had too much imagination to be a journalist and that she should become a novelist. He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form—which she did and which became her first published book. In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago, a few months before she was forced to flee the country due to the coup.

The military coup in September 1973 brought Augusto Pinochet to power and changed everything for Allende. Her mother and diplotmat stepfather narrowly escaped assassination, and she herself began receiving death threats. In 1973 Allende fled to Venezuela.

Life after Chile
Allende remained in exile in Venezuela for 13 years, working as a columnist for El Nacional, a major newspaper. On a 1988 visit to California, she met her second husband, attorney Willie Gordon, with whom she now lives in San Rafael, California. Her son Nicolas and his children live nearby.

In 1992 Allende's daughter Paula died at the age of 28, the result of an error in medication while hospitalized for porphyria (a rarely fatal metabolic disease). To honor her daughter, Allenda started the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996. The foundation is "dedicated to supporting programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."

In 1994, Allende was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit—the first woman to receive this honor.

She was granted U.S. citizenship in 2003 and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She was one of the eight flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

In 2008 Allende received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for her "distinguished contributions as a literary artist and humanitarian." In 2010 she received Chile's National Literature Prize.

In 1981, during her exile, Allende received a phone call that her 99-year-old grandfather was near death. She sat down to write him a letter wishing to "keep him alive, at least in spirit." Her letter evolved into The House of the Spirits—the intent of which was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship. Although rejected by numerous Latin American publishers, the novel was finally published in Spain, running more than two dozen editions in Spanish and a score of translations. It was an immense success.

Allende has since become known for her vivid storytelling. As a writer, she holds to a methodical literary routine, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on 8 January,"Allende once said, a tradition that began with the letter to her dying grandfather.

Her 1995 book Paula recalls Allende's own childhood in Santiago, Chile, and the following years she spent in exile. It is written as an anguished letter to her daughter. The memoir is as much a celebration of Allende's turbulent life as it is the chronicle of Paula's death.

Her 2008 memoir The Sum of Our Days centers  on her recent life with her immediate family—her son, second husband, and grandchildren. The Island Beneath the Sea, set in New Orleans, was published in 2010. Maya's Notebook, a novel alternating between Berkeley, California, and Chiloe, an island in Chile, was published in 2011 (2013 in the U.S.). Three movies have been based on her novels—Aphrodite, Eva Luna, and Gift for a Sweetheart. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 5/23/2013.)

Book Reviews
What stays with the reader, after the treks and battles and politics fade, aren’t Allende’s political musings or even her characters. Instead it’s her vivid descriptions of daily life in 16th-century South America: the meager soups that starving settlers season with mice, lizards, crickets and worms; the marriage rituals of the Mapuche, in which a man “steals the girl he desires”; an attack in which the right hands and noses of Mapuche prisoners are removed with hatchets and knives. In Ines of My Soul, Allende succeeds in resurrecting a woman from history and endowing her with the gravitas of a hero.
Maggie Galehouse - The New York Times

Only months after the inauguration of Chile's first female president, Allende recounts in her usual sweeping style the grand tale of Ines Suarez (1507- 1580), arguably the country's founding mother. Writing in the year of her death, In s tells of her modest girlhood in Spain and traveling to the New World as a young wife to find her missing husband, Juan. Upon learning of Juan's humiliating death in battle, In s determines to stay in the fledgling colony of Peru, where she falls fervently in love with Don Pedro de Valdivia, loyal field marshal of Francisco Pizarro. The two lovers aim to found a new society based on Christian and egalitarian principles that Valdivia later finds hard to reconcile with his personal desire for glory. In s proves herself not only a capable helpmate and a worthy cofounder of a nation, but also a ferocious fighter who both captivates and frightens her fellow settlers. Ines narrates with a clear eye and a sensitivity to native peoples that rarely lapses into anachronistic political correctness. Basing the tale on documented events of her heroine's life, Allende crafts a swift, thrilling epic, packed with fierce battles and passionate romance.
Publishers Weekly

Allende (The House of the Spirits) once again features a strong woman in her new novel, which is based on the life of Ines Suarez, who came to the Americas around 1537 in search of a wayward husband. After learning of his death, she joins Pedro de Valdivia, the conqueror of Chile, as his mistress and fellow conquistador in the defense of Santiago against the Native Americans. This fictionalized account of one of Chile's national heroines is meticulously researched and offers a detailed account of a little-known time period in history, as an older Ines recounts her life story. Unfortunately, this passive retelling of hardships, battles, and love affairs becomes dry, tedious, and repetitive. Seldom are readers allowed to experience the story as it happens. Instead of eagerly anticipating each part of an unfolding drama, they may have to force themselves to pick the book up again and soldier onward, much as Ines and her comrades did as they marched through the deserts of South America. Recommended for Allende's popularity. —Kellie Gillespie, City of Mesa Lib., AZ
Library Journal

Chilean author Allende (Zorro, 2005, etc.) recounts the life of a national heroine in this historical novel. Ines Suarez was born in a small Spanish village in 1507. By the time she died, in 1580, she had journeyed to the New World, become the lover of the first governor of Chile and defended the city of Santiago when it was attacked by natives. The conquistadora's life was full of daring, intrigue and passionate romance, but much of the excitement of this extraordinary woman's adventure is lost in Allende's version. In a bibliographical note, the author explains that she spent several years doing research for this novel. It shows, unfortunately, as she frequently assumes a voice more suited to an encyclopedia: "The isthmus of Panam is a narrow strip of land that separates our European ocean from the South Sea, which is now called the Pacific." Such information ultimately overwhelms the story. Character development happens in dry, rushed bursts of exposition, and Allende frequently chooses cliche‚ over real description: "My relationship with Pedro de Valdivia turned my life upside down.... One day without seeing him and I was feverish. One night without being in his arms was torment." The narrative device that Allende has chosen—the novel is a letter from Surez to her adopted daughter—is boring and distracting. Suarez frequently includes information that her adopted daughter surely would have known; she manages to transcribe whole conversations to which she was not privy; and many of the historical details—casualty statistics from the sacking of Rome in 1527, for example—seem much more like something the author found in a reference work than anything her protagonist was likely to have been privy to. Turgid and detached—homework masquerading as epic.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Describe the dichotomy that is created between Spain's extravagance and excess and Chile's starvation and starkness. What does this say about the broader civilizations, and describe the transformative influence that each culture has on the other.

2. What is your opinion of Pedro de Valdivia? As a husband? As a lover? As a military and community leader? Do you agree with the decisions that he makes, and ultimately, do you believe he is a positive or negative influence on the foundation of Chile? Is he, as Ines alludes to on pg. 141: "The worst was surely his excessive hunger for fame, which in the end cost him, and many others, their lives.", fatally flawed?

3. Ines is presented as a strong female character in many situations throughout the book. Discuss the many ways in which she holds power as a female in a patriarchal society, in terms of her sensuality, her physical/military presence, and cleverness. In what ways does she defy the traditional attitudes towards women of her time? In what ways does she confirm them?

4. Discuss the differences and similarities between the war tactics employed by the native Indians and the Spaniards in the struggle to colonize Chile. What do these tactics say about these cultures?

5. The concept of colonization has been a heated topic for centuries, and Ines laments on how the Indians feel when she says: "What must the Indians have felt when they saw us arrive, and later, when they realized that we intended to stay?" How does this sympathetic statement to the Indians stand up to the actions that are taken against them in the fight to found Chile?

6. How is the female form as a source of power and powerlessness embodied in the character of Ines?

7. How does the theme of punishment present itself throughout the novel? Do you think the punishments, whether given to prisoners of war, to Ines by Pedro de Valdivia, to traitors, and lastly to Pedro by the Indians, fit the crime?

8. How is the concept of destiny, duty, and fate present throughout this story? Do Pedro de Valdivia, Rodrigo de Quiroga, and Ines carry out their destinies?

9. Felipe/Lautaro becomes a highly influential leader for the Mapuche tribe. Compare and contrast his rise to power with that of Pedro de Valdivia's. Are both leaders, ultimately, so different?

10. Ines has three great loves throughout the novel: Juán de Malaga, Pedro de Valdivia, and Rodrigo de Quiroga. What roles do each of these men play in her life, and how does her love for each of them differ? Do you agree or disagree that a person has only one true love in their lifetime?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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