In the opening sentence of her 1998 book, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, Chilean author Isabel Allende declares: "I repent of my diets, the delicious dishes rejected out of vanity, as much as I lament the opportunities for making love that I let go by." In the height and rigor of physical self-awareness of the late 1990s in America, Allende's literary celebration of sex and food found ample response: her naughty recipe/pillow book ended up on the New York Times bestseller list.
Allende's seventh book follows the author's tradition of semi-autobiographical literature; it is a memoir of return to life, written after her 1997 novel Paula about the painful loss of her daughter. In the introduction, Allende states that her re-awakening to sensual pleasures marked her exit from the three-year period of sadness. The critics, calling Aphrodite an unusually "light" work for an author of customarily weightier literature, still praised it as a life-affirming sequel to the grief and anguish of Paula.
Aphrodite's anything-but-linear narrative is a mix of the author's romantic and culinary musings and recollections, her friends' stories, world recipes, excerpts from erotic texts, folktales, mythology, anthropology, poetry, travel writing, ancient and historical anecdotes, even gossip. In Allende's words, Aphrodite is "a mapless journey through the regions of sensual memory, in which the boundaries between love and appetite are so diffuse that at times they evaporate completely."
Even the author's California house was inspiring for the writing of her novel: as the author stated in an interview with Fred Kaplan for The Boston Globe, "it was the town's first brothel, then it was a church, then it was the first chocolate-chip cookie factory. So we live with all these smells—of the women and the chocolate—wafting in the air."