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.
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
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.
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