At a Glance

Eva Luna has a gift for storytelling. Born to a servant woman who understood the beauty of a good story, Eva learned at an early age how to use her words to construct a narrative. When her mother dies, Eva falls under the care of her insane godmother.

  • Eva gets passed around from employer to employer. She works as a servant for a cabinet minister, but grows so tired of emptying chamber pots that she pours one out over his head.
  • After a political uprising, Eva is rescued by Riad Halabí, "the Turk." Riad has a harelip and a wife who can't stand him. Riad's wife kills herself after an affair ends badly. Eva, who finds the body, is briefly suspected of murder.
  • Eva becomes the mistress of a guerrilla leader. She starts writing and selling television scripts, gradually becoming known for her excellence in storytelling. She meets Rolf, who takes her to the paradise of La Colonia. She gives the reader the option of believing this is a happy ending.


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Eva Luna is the story of a poor girl with a great gift for storytelling who, because of her indomitable spirit, manages to survive a perilous youth and become a successful television scriptwriter. The title character of the novel is also the narrator. Even when Eva herself could not have witnessed what she describes, the implication is that she is faithfully reporting what she has been told by those who were present and thus, in a sense, making those events a part of her own narrative. Since all the people mentioned affect Eva’s own history, these stories are an essential part of her life.

The book begins with Eva’s birth, the product of the sole sexual encounter of her parents. Her mother, Consuelo, a servant of unknown parentage, had decided to console an Indian gardener who was presumed to be dying from snakebite. When he recovered and went back to the jungle, he left Consuelo pregnant. Even though she died when Eva was only six years old, Consuelo remained an important part of her life, primarily because she told her such fascinating stories.

Allende then moves back in time to introduce Rolf Carlé, the son of Lukas Carlé, an Austrian schoolmaster. Rolf was a baby when his father went to war; during his father’s absence, Rolf has made him into a hero. Unfortunately, when Lukas returns, he is so tyrannical that by comparison the Russian occupation troops seem angelic.

Although Allende does not bring Eva and Rolf together until almost the end of her novel, she continues to trace his adventures as well as hers. For example, in one chapter Eva tells about her mother’s death, her employment in a household where only the cook, Elvira, treats her with kindness, and her meeting with a street boy, Huberto Naranjo, who becomes her protector. In the next, she describes Rolf’s reaction when his father is murdered by his...

(The entire section is 764 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Allende, Isabel. “An Interview with Isabel Allende.” Interview by Elyse Crystall, Jill Kyhnheim, and Mary Layoun. Contemporary Literature 33 (Winter, 1992): 584-611. A wide-ranging discussion with Allende about her career; the influence of the English language on her writing and how it has shaped her novels that are written in Spanish; and the political and spiritual elements in her stories. Briefly touches on Eva Luna.

Bader, Eleanor J. “A Life Like a Dimestore Romance.” Belles Lettres: A Review of Books by Women 4 (Winter, 1989): 5. An unfavorable review, calling the characters in Eva Luna a “largely unsympathetic, unlikable lot—cynical, angry, and manipulative,” who therefore fail to interest the reader. After calling the plot “confusing” and “unbelievable,” Bader concludes by saying that Allende could do better than write “a life that reads like dimestore romance.”

Karrer, Wolfgang. “Transformation and Transvestism in Eva Luna by Isabel Allende.” In Critical Approaches to Isabel Allende’s Novels, edited by Sonia Riquelme Rojas and Edna Aguirre Rehbein. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Explains how Allende uses mythic elements from diverse sources. Karrer’s discussion of the “semiotic code of clothing” throughout the novel, with its “theme of magical transformation,”...

(The entire section is 456 words.)