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Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon August 25th, 2008, 7:14 pm

Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende

This novel is one of the few historical fiction works set in renaissance South America, so of course I had to read it as part of my ‘renaissance around the world’ trek. Besides which, the topic interest me; I often speak on the indigenous habitat of llamas, and confess to a certain ‘history gap’ below Peru.

Ines of my Soul is rather Jean-Plaidy-like in its concept: follow a known historical character with an interesting life from birth to death, hitting all the events important to posterity along the way. Ines Suarez was the founding first lady of Peru. Wikipedia gives the following short description of her:
Inés de Suárez (c. 1507 - Santiago de Chile, 1580) was a Spanish conquistadora (female conquistador) who participated in the Conquest of Chile, was mistress to Pedro de Valdivia, successfully defended Santiago against an attack of Native Americans in 1541, and was eventually married to Rodrigo de Quiroga, Royal Governor of Chile.

If you are interested in the history of Chile, this novel is a good start. It might be recommended to students, except that Ms. Allende had at least four interludes where she inserted detailed positional descriptons of sex, which, as they were preceded by zip in the way of romantic build-up, had all the erotic force of a bovine breeding manual as told first-person from the viewpoint of the cow. Usually I skip these pages, but as part of the book was listened to while driving, we had to bear with it so as not to miss the rest of the story. (My husband rolled his eyes. “That’s pretty crude,” was his comment, but I assured him that it was typical of most current HF.)

The book is not a scintillating page turner, but does an honest workmanlike job of covering the basics. Allende doesn’t soft-peddle the atrocities, either. Starting with the sack of Rome by the forces of Charles V, the book dwells at length on the gory injustice of war. She does pop out-of-character to give you the viewpoint of one of the native war-chiefs (complete with more veterinary descriptions of sex having absolutely nothing to do with the story, but as by now I was reading instead of listening I was able to comfortably skip it) which seemed a little awkward. But the memoir mechanism was already in tatters anyway; let’s face it, would a sixteenth-century renaissance-era woman, upon dictating her memoirs to her daughter, reveal such out-of-character details?

I had a hard time liking Pedro de Valdivia. Allende showed how circumstances changed him for the worse. I can’t quite put my finger on why this didn’t work for me, because she spent a lot of time outlining his idealistic and noble intentions as a youth. Just too much narrative and too little emotion, I think. Perhaps if she had been more skillful in drawing his character as sympathetic I would have been a little sorrier that he became so hard. As it was, I’m afraid I was mostly hoping he would get his just deserts sooner instead of later.

Overall the novel plodded more than it sang. The descriptions and atmosphere were nice, and she only got two llama facts wrong, which nobody else is likely to notice and even I didn’t mind that much. But way too much tell, far too little show. If read as a research text, three stars. If read for pleasure, two.

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Kailana
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Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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Postby Kailana » Tue August 26th, 2008, 10:23 am

I have this book on my TBR pile. I have read all of her other books for the most part, but I find she is getting long-winded. Like Zorro, I could not get into Zorro by her at all! I find I either love her or I hate her.


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