Isabel Allende- Contemporary Author Research Assignment by Isabella Tillman
"Writing is a silent introspection, a journey to the dark caverns of memory and the soul."

"For me, life becomes real when I write it."

"Every book is an act of love, an offering that I prepare with great care, hoping that it will be well received."


Isabel Allende Biographical Sketch
Born on August 2, 1942, Isabel Allende was the child of a Chilean representative, Tomas Allende and Frances Llona Barros. After her parents divorced when she was three years old, she went with her mother to live with her grandparents in Santiago Chile. Her grandmother’s interest in fortune telling and astrology strongly impacted Allende along with her family’s willingness to allow her to read any book she desired. At the age of 19, she married her first husband, Miguel Frias, an engineer. Shortly thereafter she began a career as a journalism and newscaster.
The Childean writer fled from Chili to Venezuela with her husband and two children after the overthrow of Chile’s government in 1973 during which her uncle, the president, was executed. Upon fleeing from Chile in 1973, Allende began writing novels. She wrote her first novel, The House of Spirits, in 1982 was written directly after she fled Chili. This book became one of the best selling novels in Spain and West Germany. It was also made into a film in 1994. Her next book, Love and Shadow received a book prize nomination from the Los Angeles Times. After divorcing her first husband, she met and married William Gordon while traveling in California to promote Love and Shadow. She now lives in California.
Many of Allende’s books incorporate the style of magic realism, historical fiction and fantasy. Many also surround a female character as she struggles and she searches for love. Breaking from her usual themes, Allende also wrote a heartbreaking tale about her daughter’s illness and death entitled Paula (1995). In 1996 Allende also started the Isabel Allende foundation, in honor of her daughter, with the mission to “support programs that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected.” Allende, a truly talented writer, has received various awards including the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for excellence in the arts, in 1998. She was also honored by the Hispanic Heritage Awards for her contributions to the Hispanic community in 1996. She is considered many to be one of the most gifted storytellers of our time.

After reading Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende, I was immediately struck with a sense that complete closure was not achieved through the events of the climax and falling action. Given the storyteller’s rhetoric and its immense foreshadowing throughout the rising action, I expected a climactic event more indicative of the typical love story: where the main character Eliza is passionately reunited with her lover Joaquin or in the end realizes fervent love for her friend and housemate Tao. Instead, Allende ends her novel with a unconventional event where Eliza, who has struggled throughout the book to find her lover after he abandoned her and his homeland Chile in pursuit of gold in California, is confronted with romantically exaggerated tales of a Joaquin who is now a murdering ruffian. Throughout her search to find Joaquin, Eliza questions whether her pursuits are worth such effort, if her love has been extinguished or if it has transformed itself into a love for the ideal of this man not his character himself. She also fears it is not Joaquin whom she loves but the pursuit itself she has come to cherish. Following Joaquin’s slaying by a group of justice pursuing ruffians, Eliza decides to view his supposed remains including his head which has been preserved and paraded around in triumph by the constables. Upon seeing the head, Eliza makes no distinction as to whether she believes it to be that of her lover but instead says “I am free.” This statement, although it implies recognition of the corpse and confirmation of Joaquin’s identity and death, is ambiguous nonetheless and did not seem to prove either. In reality, although this statement represents complete closure for Eliza, this position represents abandonment of love for Joaquin and the end of her pursuit to find him. As a reader, seemingly swindled by the elements of fairytale love story represented in the novel, I felt as if the unrequited feelings were unfulfilled where, in truth, their extinction represented fulfillment in an unconventional way. It is through this realization that the theme of Allende’s work was revealed; it seems as if Allende has molded this work and its qualities unrepresentative of the cliché love story, to express a classic moral: that the outcome of a journey is not always the most important event - the journey itself, including the lessons learned along the way, holds true worth. As a reader, still nursing the reality induce wounds from the ending and theme presented in Atonement, I was avidly seeking an finale in Daughter of Fortune which encompassed the elements of the typical love story: a tear invoking reunion, requited love between lovers, and the “happily-ever-after” following a glorious marriage. Allende presents the importance of this theme through her focus on each character’s actions. Each character’s personality was described through specific accounts of important life events with emphasis on their personal actions. Even though the ending and theme were not what I was expecting, I also enjoyed the historical context which provided interesting insight into 19th century life in Chile, China, and California particularly for the women who lived during that time period.

Upon finishing Zorro, by Isabel Allende, I was enthralled to learn that the narrator was none other than Diego’s longtime friend, Isabel. My perspective changed upon learning the narrator’s identity; I felt suddenly much more intimately involved in the lives of each character and trusted the accounts, although the novel in entirety is fiction, as valid and accurate in relation to the story. As the character, Zorro, is no new persona to novel and cinema audiences alike, I found Allende’s choice of setting and climax to be somewhat unconventional. Zorro, as I originally imagined, was a character who traveled the world in pursuit of justice and fairness for all who inhabited it; he fought for all who were unfairly persecuted in order to restore order and equality to all the land. Travelling vast distances and surmounting huge obstacles with the goal of righting the wrongs done onto the oppressed and the “underdog” was Zorro’s mission and purpose. Allende’s Zorro, Diego de la Vega, the son of a wealthy Spanish government official and landowner in Californa, primarily sought justice for his friends and family although engaged in several thrilling battles for general justice along the way. Initially, I felt disappointed by this limiting focus and the his rival, Raphael Moncanda’s position as more of a personal foe not a widespread villan. This focus, however, enabled Allende to closely examine the lives of this small group of characters living in California, New Orleans, and Barcelona during the 19th century. However magically realistic Zorro’s feats may be, the societal standards and expectations which molded the lives of the characters were represented accurately. Allende’s inclusion of many characters from vastly different racial and economic backgrounds, Bernardo a Native American and Juliana a wealthy Spanish senorita, provided interesting insight and gave the novel authentic educational perspective in addition to its entertaining qualities. As expected, after reading other Allende works, I was propelled swiftly through the story by her fluid writing style and engaging storyteller’s rhetoric. Conclusively, I consider this story to be a compelling read for someone looking to enjoy an action packed novel with the unexpected benefit of Allende’s accurate historical account.

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