Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

With Eva Luna, Isabel Allende returned to the kind of fiction that had established her reputation. Her first novel, La casa de los espiritus (1982; The House of the Spirits, 1985), was written in the tradition of Magical Realism, like the novels of Gabriel García Márquez, the noted Latin American author and Nobel laureate to whom Allende acknowledges her indebtedness. Although in De amor y de sombra (1984; Of Love and Shadows, 1987) Allende continued to explore the theme of repression and political tyranny, in form that novel was realistic or even naturalistic. Although it was an exciting story, it lacked the mysterious, enchanted, and often haunted atmosphere that readers saw again in Eva Luna.

Eva and Rolf appear again in Cuentos de Eva Luna (1990; The Stories of Eva Luna, 1991), a collection of twenty-three stories supposedly invented by Eva at the request of her lover. In the novel that followed, El Plan Infinito (1991; The Infinite Plan, 1993), Allende for the first time set a work in the United States. Her North American protagonist is a rootless wanderer, not unlike Eva Luna, who searches for love and justice in a world that sometimes seems to contain only brutality and betrayal.

Because of her technical virtuosity and her transcendent humanistic vision, Allende is considered to be one of the most gifted Latin American writers of the late twentieth century. Her importance is perhaps best stated in the frequently quoted words of Alexander Coleman, who wrote in The New York Times Book Review (May 12, 1985) that Allende was “the first woman to approach on the same scale as the others [male Latin American novelists] the tormented patriarchal world of traditional Hispanic society.”