I first heard of Isabel Allende from a Ted Talk speech she gave on women writers. Listening to her address I felt a kindred spirit and instantly connected to her candor, transparency and passion as a woman, author and fictional commentator. So much so that I immediately went to my local library and tracked down two of her books; Ine’s of My Soul and The Infinite Plan.
Now my readers know that the majority of the books I write reviews on center around fantasy with the occasional historical romance thrown in. So it almost surprised me that I found Allende’s historical narrative so compelling; until I remembered how much I enjoyed Gear & Gears account of de Soto’s invasion of the Americas. I’m not sure if it’s the Spanish invasion theme that connects me to them or the fact that I’m part Native American and my DNA just naturally resonates with the injustice of indigenous peoples. Whatever the reasons the end note is the same – I really like reading biographical-historical fiction as much as I enjoy the escape into never never land.
Allende, who has received dozens of international tributes and awards over the last 30 years, describes her fiction as “realistic literature,” rooted in her remarkable upbringing and the mystical people and events that fueled her imagination. Her writings are equally informed by her feminist convictions, her commitment to social justice and the harsh political realities that shaped her destiny.– Biography
Yet the lane change from fantasy to historical chronology took a little getting used to. The first thing I had to overcome was Allende’s narrative style. Used to author’s who naturally use action and dialog to move their stories along, the author’s use of either of these literary tools could be counted on two hands – fact is, their darn near none existent. But funnily enough, her skill as a story teller is so amazing that whenever she does use them it’s like artwork; words and deeds carefully placed throughout the book to enhance rather than detract.
“It is very strange to write one’s biography because it is just a list of dates, events, and achievements. In reality, the most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography. My most significant achievements are not my books, but the love I share with a few people—especially my family—and the ways in which I have tried to help others.
When I was young, I often felt desperate: so much pain in the world and so little I could do to alleviate it! But now I look back at my life and feel satisfied because few days went by without me at least trying to make a difference.” Isabel Allende
Even though Ine’s of My Soul is a story about the Spanish conquistadora Ine’s Suarez and her part in conquering the country of Chile, it is really about every woman who has followed her heart and not let go of it’s dreams – no matter what the cost to body, soul and spirit. Allende has a truly amazing ability to wrap her characters around the readers heart in such a way that you feel what they feel, see what they see and flounder when they are forced to make decisions that would have many of us running to our rooms, hiding under the bed eating chocolate and reading a far less provoking book.
If you like history and don’t mind that almost the entire story is told through the eyes of the woman who experienced it, then this is one of those books you’ll want to curl up with on a rainy day, the dog or cat curled at your feet, and a cup of ‘joe’ at your elbow to keep you warm.
On my readers scale of 1-5 stars I’m giving Ine’s of My Soul 4 stars for over all story and 4.5 stars for reaching into my soul and reminding me that the only things that stand between a woman and her dreams are the voices that tell her no.