Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende

Title: Inés of My Soul
Author: Isabel Allende

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 16th century / South American)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (7/1/2007)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: The life of a 16th century Spanish girl, who rose from poverty to riches following the conquistadors of Chile.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes but it's not my favorite among the various editions (the 2006 hardcover is stunning).

I'm reminded of...: Laura Esquivel, Sandra Gulland

First line: I am Inés Suárez, a townswoman of the loyal city of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura in the kingdom of Chile, writing in the year of Our Lord 1580.

Did... I feel a bit uncomfortable with the wholly pro-conquistador plot line?: YES, but the perk of these P.S. editions is the extras.  This book includes an NPR interview with Isabel Allende who talks about keeping Inés' voice authentic to the era and having to, essentially 'choose sides'.  It helped me with my discomfort

Did... I find some unexpected parallels with other novels set during wartime?: YES.  Much like Sadie Jones' Small Wars (which I read earlier this year), this historical novel is about relationships and love but also about war, violence, and the impact of torture on those using it.

Is... there a free ebook of it available?: YES.  As of today, my Goodreads page for this edition offers a read it now/download ebook option for it, so I'd recommend logging into Goodreads today and downloading this if you can.  It's so worth it!

Why did I get this book?: Allende is a master of historical fiction and I love books with strong, crazy, interesting, fascinating narrators.

Review: Inés Suárez is a heroine that will stick with me for a long time.  At the book's opening, she estimates she's about seventy years old and is going to soon die.  In the rambling way of someone working through their memories, distracted at times by side stories and the need to unburden her soul, Inés' story unfolds.  

Born to an ordinary Spanish family, she and her childhood lover are caught up in the adventures of the Americas and the untold riches any man can claim.  She goes to join him after he leaves and finds herself a key player in the exploration and conquest of Chile, the last untamed regions of South America.  She finds true love, comfortable love, witnesses the founding of a nation, and makes a ton of empanadas.

I'm incredibly picky about my historical heroines sounding overly modern, especially if they're social rebels who are preternaturally gorgeous.  In Allende's quite competent hands, Inés manages to be both stubborn, pig-headed, willful, pretty, and smart without sounding too perfect or too talented. As a narrator, she has the distance of an old woman looking back on what turned out to be a rather momentous life, and so she qualifies and annotates and even rambles and repeats herself.  She's fascinating and charming, and I was immediately sucked in to her story.

This is an unusual era  and setting for historical novels (if one doesn't read a lot of Allende) and so I recommend it to all historical fiction fans.  If you're new to Allende, this is a fantastic starter novel -- great story, great narrator -- and the extras at the end provide a lovely introduction to Allende and her other works.

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GIVEAWAY!  This blog tour is for the paperback release of Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea and I'm giving away a copy of it to one lucky reader!  Ends 5/20, US/CA readers only.  Just leave your name and email address for a chance to be entered.  For reviews and a description of Island Beneath the Sea, just check out the blog tour webpage.  (It looks good!)


  1. I haven't read anything by Allende yet, but loved this review, and would love a chance to read this book, so please do enter me in your giveaway, and thanks for hosting it!!


  2. Great review. I generally enjoy Allende's works, but haven't read this one yet. It's now going on my wish list.

  3. I read this book earlier this year and love it. Your review is brilliant, it gives words to every little things my mind has no words for. I am eager to participate in the giveaway to have a chance to win her latest book. Thank you for your kindness!

  4. @Si -- thank you -- you made me blush! Do leave your email address so you can be entered to win -- that's how I contact the winner!

  5. This sounds really great! Please count me in. I haven't read any of her work, but I've had her on my "Wish List" for awhile now!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  6. Eh..I just downloaded it in Arabic o_O
    But I think the library has it, I hope

  7. @Blodeuedd: Odd! I'd email the Goodreads folks about that!

  8. It sounds interesting, esp with the pro-conquistador bent. At least the author was able to address it in the extras.

    I'm in for the giveaway! empty.chords at

  9. I haven't read anything by Allende, but I've wanted to for some time if I could just get my hands on one of her books...thanks for the giveaway!

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

  10. Her books sound so good she is on my to read list. So happy to hear about this giveaway! Count me in!


  11. I haven't read an Allende either. I like historical fiction and both these books sound good.

    undermyappletree at gmail dot com

  12. No need to enter me. I'll be reading Island Beneath the Sea for the tour. I absolutely loved Ines of My Soul. Allende's writing is beautiful.

  13. I listened to the audio version of this a while back and found it truly fascinating. I'm not that familiar with this time/place so it was educational for me as well as entertaining.

    Thanks so much for being on the tour!

  14. This sounds really interesting and I've never read her books. I'll check if my library has this.
    Thanks for the review :)

  15. love to hear the audio version of this as heathertlc mentioned above. allende has that magical quality to her writing.

  16. I have not read Allende before, so I am glad to see that you recommend this as a good one to start with.
    Thanks for the great, informative review :)

  17. Every work by this author sounds intriguing. Can't imagine why I've yet to read one.

  18. I read this just last month. It was weird to read from the perspective of the conquistadors, but I thought that Ines went as far as was possible for someone in her position in sympathizing with the natives. There are limits when they killed your lover and tried quite hard to kill you, I guess. Here's my review.

  19. quixoticdreamer(at)hotmail(dot)com


  20. I've never read ANY Allende before (can you believe it?), but I do have her House of Spirits on my shelf to read at some point... I have a feeling once I read her, I'll wonder what took me so long!

  21. would love to read this novel...thanks for the chance :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  22. I've read a few of Isable Allende's books and am reviewing 2 for TLC Books. Allende's writing is so compelling. She brings characters and places to life...Ines and her story sounds like another wonderful addition to Allende's long list of terrific historical fiction.

    Thank you for a wonderful review and for hosting a giveaway of this book!


  23. What a great concept. Count me in please.

  24. wow, beautiful review. jeskimo.kimono(at)gmail
    (dot)com for me.