House of the Spirits

by Isabel Allende

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 596

Allende, Isabel. Paula. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. A personal memoir that provides autobiographical details about the author’s life and works. Blends real and magical worlds as in The House of the Spirits.

Cunningham, Lucia Guerra, ed. Splintering Darkness: Latin American Women Writers in Search of Themselves. Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1990. An essay on The House of the Spirits examines the effect of a male narrator’s being controlled, or “framed,” not only by a female writer but by a female narrator as well. In this way, it is suggested that, at least in fiction, women such as Alba can exert power over patriarchs such as Esteban Trueba.

Earle, Peter G. “Literature as Survival: Allende’s The House of the Spirits.” Contemporary Literature 28 (Winter, 1987): 543-554. Earle sees the basic conflict of the novel in Hegelian terms. Esteban Trueba, representing “the blind force of history,” is opposed to Clara, Blanca, and Alba, who have “historical awareness and intuitive understanding.”

Foreman, P. Gabrielle. “Past-On Stories: History and the Magically Real, Morrison and Allende on Call.” Feminist Studies 18 (Summer, 1992): 369-388. A comparison of The House of the Spirits and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977). Notes that Allende attributes magic only to women characters, suggesting that as they transmit their magical powers, so women can preserve history for others through the magic of words.

Gazarian-Gautier, Marie-Lise. Interviews with Latin American Writers. Normal, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 1992. Allende discusses her first three novels and the influence of women’s storytelling in her family. She explains that the loss of her roots and her longing for Chile while in exile led her to write the first book.

Hart, Patricia. Narrative Magic in the Fiction of Isabel Allende. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989. The chapter on The House of the Spirits expands the definition of “spirits” to include such elements as vision, dreams, and ideals, as well as people, both living and dead. An interesting approach.

Jones, Suzanne W., ed. Writing the Woman Artist: Essays on Poetics, Politics, and Portraiture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991. Critical essays from a feminist perspective. A discussion of The House of the Spirits considers the development of Alba Trueba as a writer.

Morgan, Janice, and Colette T. Hall, eds. Redefining Autobiography in Twentieth-Century Women’s Fiction: An Essay Collection. New York: Garland, 1991. A perceptive essay compares Isabel Allende to Clarice Lispector. In The House of the Spirits, Clara’s journal-keeping shows “a woman inserting herself into history” and asserting her right to self-expression.

Riquelme Rojas, Sonia, and Edna Aguirre Rehbein, eds. Critical Approaches to Isabel Allende’s Novels. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. A collection of essays that explores Allende’s three novels from several perspectives, including a study of the connection with the picaresque tradition and parodic writing in the contemporary literature of Latin America. Also includes an interview with Allende in 1989.

Rojas, Sonia Riquelme, and Edna Aguirre Rehbein, eds. Critical Approaches to Isabel Allende’s Novels. New York: Peter Land, 1991. A collection including three essays in English on The House of the Spirits. One concentrates on the importance of the prostitute Tránsito Soto, another on Allende’s system of names, and a third on her theme of “Nation as Family.”

Valis, Noël, and Carol Maier. In the Feminine Mode: Essays on Hispanic Women Writers. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1990. Of particular interest is an essay on androgyny in The House of the Spirits. The author argues that merging of male characters with female may imply some hope for an end to gender conflicts.

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Essays and Criticism