Isabel Allende says of her female protagonist in Daughter of Fortune, Eliza, that she might well represent who the author might have been in another life. Allende spent seven years of research on this, her fifth novel, which she says is a story of a young woman's search for self-knowledge. Allende also believes that the novel reflects her own struggle to define the role of feminism in her life.
In Daughter of Fortune, Eliza takes a physical journey through time and space as she travels from Chile to Gold-Rush-era California. That journey also represents a spiritual quest. Eliza, as she stows away in a dark hole at the bottom of a ship, awakens to the challenge of first redefining herself in a man's world of adventure and aggression before she refines herself and returns to a new definition of what it is to be an unfettered and independent female.
Allende says that Daughter of Fortune did not turn out as she had planned and that during the process of composition, she often got angry with some of her characters who would not do what she wanted them to do. She also says that, while she was still writing the book, she had a dream that told her the book was finished, although she thought she still had a lot more to write. Her mother, who, at the age of seventy-eight, remains her only editor, questioned the ending as being too abrupt. However, Allende states that she knew that her dream was telling her that the story had arrived at its own natural ending. Some reviews of the book call Daughter of Fortune one of Allende's best.