Thursday, October 6, 2011
Review: Daughter of Fortune
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is how I like my historical fiction. There were characters who felt real and three-dimensional to me, a fascinating story I could follow within the historical context, and an integration of historical details that made me feel like the story could've happened, once upon a time.
Daughter of Fortune follows Eliza Sommers, a foundling in Chile, through growing up on a chilly port town, falling in love, and following her first love to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Along the way, she meets Tao Chi'en, a Chinese man who was pressed into service to act as a cook, but whose skill lies in Eastern medicine.
Allende brings the settings to life so that I could see, hear, feel, even smell them. The characters all start out with room to grow, and grow they do, and not just in the biological sense. The book goes in a different direction than I thought it was taking me, and I liked that.
Ultimately, this is a book about not just the Gold Rush of 1849, but about growing up, finding oneself, and the love that goes beyond the initial puppydog infatuation that our culture loves so much.
Like all good historical fiction, I thought this had a lot of echoes in the modern day, and it had some things to say about them. Racism, sex trafficking, mob mentality, and a distrust of Mexicans continues to be a problem, and Allende uses these elements to good effect.
I liked this book, as a historical fiction novel, as an educational tool to show me what life was like during the Gold Rush, and as a decent story. I'd recommend it, especially if you've read and liked Isabel Allende's work before.
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