Eva Luna by Isabel Allende (♦♦♦)

Eva Luna was born in South America, in a house where her mother was a housekeeper, and she grew up surrounded by mommies, human and animals’, because the house owner was an embalmer. After her mother died, and then the house owner, Eva went to live with her godmother who sent her to work as a housekeeper for rich people, until homeless once again, she met a boy named Huberto Naranjo, who gave her something to eat, and whom she would meet many times again along her life.

When Eva was eleven years old, homeless once more, she was adopted by a Turkish immigrant with whom she lived until almost the end of her adolescence. Gone to live in the capital once again, she studies, works, experiences joy and heartbreak through old friends and lovers… Meanwhile, convulse political changes occur in her country, the continent, and the world.

In Eva Luna converge dictators and corrupt politicians, homeless children forced to survive using tricks, abusive husbands, fearful women, a mad scientist, immigrants from other continents who came filled with dreams and little resources…But the story goes beyond those things to span the end of the XIX century, the aftermath of WWI seen through the eyes of the inhabitants of an Austrian village, the oil boom in South America, the overthrow of dictatorships, the triumph of Fidelism in Cuba, the emergence of the guerrilla movement, coups d’ etat, etc.
Even though I think the country described in Eva Luna is a composite between Venezuela and Colombia, the same political chaos has taken place virtually in every country in the region, thus this story acquires a broader dimension.

In the same measure that my readings in English have broadened, so has my preference for descriptions and dialogues. Latino American literature is essentially narrative and that was somewhat upsetting when I read Eva Luna. In City of the Beasts, also written by Allende, the style was descriptive and the genre was young adult, but in Eva Luna there is a fusion of social criticism and historical fiction, which make it more difficult to read.

I suppose my mixed feelings towards Eva Luna have much to do with having read last week To Kill A Mockingbird, which I think is a superior novel than Eva Luna, thus the latter has paled in comparison. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t completely enjoy it. Some chapters were very funny and were written with much more sensibility than the rest; those chapters were almost addictive, unlike those in which politics is so present that I found them tedious.


  1. So interesting to read your reaction to Eva Luna. I read it so long ago, April 2000. My reading notes say, "The magical and the characters larger than life, the belief in love, all Allende's wonderful attributes are there." I did not read To Kill A Mockingbird until just a year or so ago. Isn't it amazing how the books we read affect each other in our minds?

    1. Hi Judy,
      I felt ambiguous towards Eva Luna. On one hand the characters were very well developed, especially Eva Luna who was intriguing, strong, resilient; on the other hand, like I said, I think I subconsciously compared it to To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a pity though because it's considered one of her best works.
      Still, her other works are high on my TBR. I'll let you know my opinion in due time.

    2. Today I am reading Maya's Notebook. I think Allende just has a style all her own. Just before this book I read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, a remarkable and smoothly written novel which I loved intensely. In Maya's Notebook, Allende totally captures a teen voice but her style is a little more rough or something compared to Kidd.

    3. Now you have got me interested in Maya's Notebook. I know what you mean about her style. She makes literature seem effortless, like you're in conversation with a friend who knows how to spin odd stories.
      I haven't read The Invention of Wings, but now you have me thinking that perhaps I should.
      I'm eager to read your review of Maya's Notebook and see what you think. Apparently Maya is a tough cookie.


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