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August 13, 2010

Eva Luna

Ever since I came across Isabel Allende's interview on NPR, I've wanted to read one of her books.  The latest novel wasn't available at my library, so I grabbed Eva Luna.  I'm not disappointed.

 There are so many things I like about this novel and about Allende's writing in general.  Characters flow in and out of the story, which shifts through time and place without causing confusion or interrupting the momentum.  From the beginning there's an undercurrent driving everything together, propelled by a magic that resembles a dreamer's imagination.  The narrator, Eva Luna, is strong yet tender-hearted with a clear, consistent voice and compassion for the other characters.  There's something uplifting about being caught up in her world, even when ugliness and violence intrude.

What impresses me most is Allende's use of indirect dialogue and summary.  She keeps the story alive, providing enough detail to fuel the reader's imagination while skimming over events. Here's an example from page 250 of the Dial Press Edition:
     "You have to take these programs on faith.  You have to believe in them, period," said Mimi, between two of Alejandra's speeches. "If you start analyzing them, you ruin them."

     She argued that anyone can dream up dramas like Belinda's and Luis Alfredo's, but I better than anyone, since I had spent years listening to them in kitchens, believing they were true, and feeling betrayed when I learned that reality was not like the stories on the radio.  Mimi outlined the undeniable advantages of working for television, where there was room for every absurdity and where every character, however extravagant, had a chance to win the hearts of an unsuspecting public--a privilege rarely accorded a book.  That evening she came home carrying a dozen little cakes and a heavy, beautifully wrapped package.  It was a typewriter.  So you can get to work, she said.  We spent part of the night sitting on the bed drinking wine, eating cookies, and discussing the ideal plot--a tangle of passions, divorces, bastards, ingenues and villains, wealthy and destitute that would ensnare the viewers from the first word and keep them glued to the screen through two hundred emotional episodes.  We were tipsy and covered with sugar by the time we went to bed, and I dreamed of blind girls and jealous men. 

Do you see what I'm getting at?

I'm almost finished with Eva Luna and looking forward to reading more of Allende's work.  Any suggestions on authors with similar styles I might enjoy?


Lila Alger said...

maybe Mark was right - I should be reading - something needs to help me find my writing rhythm again.

James said...

Sounds like an interesting author and read. Have you read any other works by Eva Luna yet?