In case you are not noticing a theme, I just love Isabel Allende! And who wouldn’t? She is a very powerful writer and knows how to draw her readers in and keep them captivated at every page turn. Having this been her third novel, I knew that Eva Luna would be yet another treasure of Allende, and it is. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as all the other books I’ve reviewed, but it’s in the top 5.
This novel is narrated by Eva Luna, the protagonist, and the very title of this book. She starts by recounting her mother’s life, how she met her father and then how her life unfolded as a child. There’s no doubt that she has led a hard life, but again, Allende employs the idea of a strong and independent woman who thrives in the face of adversity. Eva takes her hardships and turns them into triumphs, which makes the book for a very inspiring read. It also allows Allende to play around with many different characters with whom Eva encounters on her journey to finding unconditional love.
One of the many things that makes this book unique to the others is that it does not, in fact, tale place in Chile. Although the pages never state the exact country in South America, it is quite clear that it is Venezuela, where Allende fled during the military dictatorship in the 1970’s. There are a few hints of this, such as the political unrest, the close relationships to Cuba and their ideals and finally, the oil that has made the country wealthy and more economically comfortable than it is today. Also, Allende takes some risks with the characters, such as Melecio/Mimi and the question of transgender roles in society. Of course, gender has never been a topic that Allende has shied away from in her previous novels (and this book is no exception), but to talk about gender transitioning in 1987 was not common and thus a brave move on Allende, a female writer in what was then (and still is) a male-dominated profession. This is just another example on how Allende is constantly surprising us and pushing us to think beyond the norms of society both then and now. I really enjoyed reading about it and feeling like the topic was personalized as we got to know and love this character that spent so many years suffering.
All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Isabel Allende or someone who wants to get to know her writing. It’s one of her better books and it allows you to dive into many topics while feeling like you can relate to the characters, particularly Eva Luna. The beautiful prose, the magical realism and the story are beautiful and will keep you hooked from the first to the very last page. I strongly recommend it and many other of her novels!