I have a lot of feelings about The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. This book did not go as I expected, and in the end, I think I liked it.
Before I begin my review I want to let my readers know that this books deals with a lot of mature topics such as rape, violence, and abuse. In my review I will be mentioning these things so feel free to skip this review if you need to.
The House of the Spirits tells the story of the Trueba family beginning with Clara De Valle, a clairvoyant young girl with an eccentric personality. Esteban Trueba narrates almost all of the story and he is engaged to Clara’s older sister, Rosa the most beautiful woman in the city, but after her tragic death Esteban decides to rebuild his family’s rancho, Tres Marías. At Tres Marías Esteban is tortured by dreams of Rosa and because of his horniness, he decides to rape many of the young girls in Tres Marías until he decides he needs a wife.
Clara De Valle spends most of her day speaking to ghosts and predicting future events. Clara also has a sidekick in the form of Barrabás a mysterious creature that resembles a very large dog.
After the death of Rosa, Clara becomes mute and on her 19th birthday she announces to her family that she will marry her sister’s ex fiancé, Esteban Trueba, even though she does not love him. At Clara’s engagement ceremony her childhood companion, Barrabás dies in her arms signaling the beginning of her adult life. Clara and Esteban are married and have three children Blanca, Jaime, and Nicolas.
Blanca does not inherit her mother’s ability to divine the future but, like her aunt Rosa, Blanca has a talent for creating fantasy creatures out of clay. Blanca also falls in love with Pedro Tercero, her childhood friend from Tres Marías. However, when Esteban discovers that Blanca has been sneaking out to meet her lover, he beats her and knocks Clara’s teeth out when she attempts to intervene. After the incident mother and daughter leave Tres Marías for their home in the city where they live with Blanca’s sibiling’s Jaime and Nicolas. Back in the city, Blanca discovers that she is pregnant, and Esteban marries Blanca off to a French count. However, Blanca discovers her husband’s secret photography room, she decides to leave him and gives birth to Alba at her parent’s home in the city.
Alba inherits her aunt Rosa’s green hair and is an overall a happy child raised by a single mother and her uncle Jaime. Alba, unlike the rest of the family members, is the only one who regularly talks to her grandfather Esteban and because of this Esteban decides that Alba will be the person to inherit Tres Marías.
In College Alba falls for Miguel, a communist advocate, who tries to steer Alba away from the danger of becoming involved in the political protests. During Alba’s arc of the story, the country, which I assumed was chile, experiences a transition from democracy, but was really oligarchy, to communism, and last to a military dictatorship. Alba has a good heart and she ends up feeding the poor and hiding the country’s most wanted men. Miguel leaves Alba to become a guerrilla fighter and soon after that she is kidnapped by Esteban Garcia, a descendant of the first woman that Esteban Trueba rape. Alba is tortured and raped during her time with Esteban but when she is eventually freed, she returns to her grandfather and the two decide to write this story.
I hated Esteban Trueba so much. He had a savior complex and always needed to be in a position of power. Esteban always compared his peasant workers to children in order to justify why they should not have certain privileges such as being paid. In addition, Esteban is a rapist and he beat his family members, so he is a shitty person. Towards the end of the novel Esteban’s has a change of heart and begins to regret his actions as a politician and he helps Blanca and Pedro Tercero flee the country as well as freeing his granddaughter Alba. However, Esteban is the reason all these bad things happened in the first place. He created the villain, Esteban Garcia, by raping his grandmother, and Esteban was the one who put him in power by recommending him to the police academy.
Almost all of the novel is told through Esteban’s perspective, so this gave me mixed feelings however, I loved Clara and her descendants. What I took away from this novel is that the women in this family are resilient. After Esteban knocks Clara’s teeth out, she continues to live her life. She does not leave Esteban, but she spends the rest of their life together not speaking to him which is worse.
Blanca goes on after her father beats her bloody for sleeping with Pedro Tercero. And she continues to see Pedro against her father’s wishes. Eventually she runs away with him and Esteban has no choice but to help them.
“Pedro Tercero García, whom she would imagine among the clouds of sunset and or in golden wheatfields of Tres Marías.”
Lastly, Alba continues to live her life despite the trauma she went through at the hands of her cousin Esteban. This becomes Alba’s revenge against her abuser and maybe that is something she learned from the women in her family.
Right now, my rating of this novel is 3 stars.
I would not recommend this book to everyone given all the depictions of sexual violence contained within the pages. I overall enjoyed Allende’s writing and I hope there is another book of hers that I enjoy even more.
Until my next review continue living in libros,