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Review: My Invented Country, Isabel Allende

With a careful touch of humor and her own personal subjectivity, author Isabel Allende takes her readers on a tour of the Chile of her childhood, the Chile that she knew for the earliest years of her life.  This memoir reads as a meandering journey throughout the history of Allende’s family and her own girlhood, when she became a feminist before she even knew what a feminist was.  Overall, the book reads like an enchanting conversation about a foreign country and a family that never ceases to be interesting and informative.

Isabel Allende has been one of my favorite authors since I read Daughter of Fortune in high school, an instant favorite with me.  I have since read a number of her works, most recently The Sum of Our Days, her latest memoir.  I was really looking forward to this book and I wasn’t at all disappointed.  An account of her earlier life mixed with a history of Chile from her perspective, it’s both interesting from a historical and a human interest point of view.  I knew very little about Chile, and I was fascinated by her accounts of the people she knew and the character of the nation.  She does say that everything she writes is completely subjective, but this is a memoir, so it’s perfectly acceptable.  She also has some interesting reflections on memoirs; everyone remembers everything differently, and she writes that she cannot help but inject her own nostalgia and feelings into her recollections of the past.

Allende as a girl is charming and fascinating.  I loved that she said she was a feminist before she knew what one was.  Her desire to be independent, and not subservient to a man, outlasted the period when she was indeed like that.  Her account of her own adolescence is hilarious.  She gives her own family a magic touch, writing about ghosts and spirits, and while part of me rejects that because it doesn’t match my own beliefs about the world, the other part of me was enchanted by her stories.  The House of the Spirits is one of her books that I haven’t yet read and this immediately made me want to read it, as it’s based on her family.

Her history of Chile includes a small measure of politics and some observations about the fate of nations, particularly during her period as an exile.  She contrasts her own Chilean attitudes with those of the people in the places she’s lived throughout exile, as well as those of modern Chileans.  While her censure of the American government for uprooting her cousin Salvador Allende is clear, it’s also clear that she still manages to love her adopted country.  This is an interesting juxtaposition of attitudes and makes something that could have been offensive into an interesting section of the text that makes her readers think.

I really enjoyed My Invented Country.  I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys memoirs.

This is my first read for the Women Unbound challenge.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.

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