Monday 11 May 2009

Book Review: Isabelle Allende - Ines of My Soul.

Having previously borrowed Isabel Allende’s Zorro from Long-Suffering Sister (review here), I couldn’t wait for her to lend me this book from the same author (which I bought her last year for Eid).

Ines of My Soul is the story of Ines Suarez, one of the founders of Chile told in her own words. The story opens with Ines as an old women telling the story of her life to her stepdaughter, beginning as the daughter of a poor family in Spain and taking us through her first marriage to a handsome good-for-nothing, her resourcefulness in the face periods of poverty and her eventual journey to South America on the pretext of finding her husband, but really in search of a new life. We follow her as she lands in Peru, finds herself a protector and lover and then follows him to the last undiscovered portion of South America – Chile. The small group of settlers face hostile natives, severe drought, isolation, starvation and illness.

The novel is an interesting take on the conquest of South America by the Spanish, but what I really liked is the feisty, humane voice Allende gives to Ines. The Spanish are the great conquistadors, but the natives are not invisible or savages, even though the Spanish see them as such. Allende shows the way they are mistreated and abused, the way entire, villages and populations are pillaged as if their inhabitants lives are worth less than nothing – the men a threat to be removed and the women chattel to be raped and traded.

She also highlights the absolute powerlessness of women, whether Spanish or Indian, both in law and because of social norms and conventions. This is one of the things I liked about the book, the heroine is a really intelligent, brave, resourceful, hard-working and feisty creation, characteristics I just loved. Ines makes her way in what is definitely a man’s world and a cruel and dangerous one at that.

Many of the themes I found in Zorro, I found here – the devastation of the native population, the cruelty and arrogance of the Spanish conquerors with their complete assurance that their faith and culture is entirely superior and must be forcefully imposed on the natives for their own benefit. Again there is the long journey from Spain to the New World and all of the promises of riches and land that it holds, the concept of the hidalgo – the Spanish nobleman sworn to King and Country and high ideals.

My only gripe might be the same one that LSS picked up, that the book does end slightly abruptly, before you expect it to. Also, some of the scenes described (various tortures, murders and punishments) might be a little graphic for those who have a weak stomach (wimps!!). Overall though this has been a book I have been looking forward to and which I really enjoyed reading, although between the two books, I like Zorro more.

1 comment:

  1. I liked Zorro more too, although this is still very good -will have to get anoter one of her books soon, i think