Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Ines of My Soul

Ines of My Soul
Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am no history expert. I know even less about South American history. And so, from the standpoint of accuracy or filling in details I didn't already know, I can't comment on this book. But then, I don't think that was the point of this novel.

American audiences, in general, aren't familiar with Chilean history, so that makes the filling-out of a female role in Chilean history much more plausible than if she'd chosen a region most of us Americans have already been repeating stories about since we were old enough to speak. I don't think Americans were Allende's primary target audience, but I am an American commenting on the book, and I don't know how it was received by Chilean historians.

I'm waffling between 3 and 4 stars not because this was poorly written, but because I couldn't figure out the point of the book, beyond bringing an influential woman to life. Allende goes against her usual sympathy for the indigenous population. Then again, she's writing deeply within the point of view of Inés Suárez, who truly believes the Mapuche people would be better off if the Spanish took over their land and converted them all to Christianity. That the author still manages to slide in her opinion on the matter shows a skilled hand.

Some readers might be annoyed by the deep-POV style that has Inés, an old woman narrating her life's story, sometimes contradicting, sometimes repeating, sometimes skipping over parts or rambling on with no historical context. There's a sense of verity in the narrative, thanks to those so-called mistakes.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a strong female heroine outside where you'd normally find her.

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