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Banned Book Review: The House of Spirits

February 8, 2006

67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

Reason: Sexual Content

And mysticism.  And ghosts.  And incest.  And torture.  And killing.  And occasionally blasphemous declarations against God.

As far as Banned Books go, The House of Spirits has it all.  Rape, murder, fortune telling, necrophilia, blasphemy, oppression of minorities, cursing, you name it.  I honestly believe that one of the reasons this book isn’t higher up on the list is that it’s so damn hard to follow.  The story is mainly told from the point of view of a Chilean aristocrat and his various family members.  His wife sees into the future, his granddaughter is exploring the past, and the narrative often mentions events in passing that don’t occur until long into the future.  There is a sort of linear progression to the timeline, but mostly the threads are gathered by subject, much like the diaries written by the fortunetelling wife which are often cited as the basis for the rest of the story.  Allende sometimes over simplifies the motivations of the socialist and fascist groups who provide much of the political tensions, and her portrayal of the peasants is occasionally off-putting.  Otherwise, it’s a rather complex story with rich characterizations and a wonderful amount of history to motivate the characters.  While I sometimes wondered if the story would have been more enjoyable in the original Spanish, I do recommend it.

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