This is a selection of reviews (some complimentary,
others critical) of Allende's books, limited to English-language
works. When the text is not available online, an excerpt is included
here; otherwise, see the linked text.
The House of the Spirits
“With this spectacular first novel, Isabel Allende
becomes the first woman to join what has been heretofore an exclusive
male club of Latin American novelists...she is the first...to approach
on the same scale as the others the tormented patriarchal world
of traditional Hispanic society and to argue that the enraged class
violence in Latin America is a debate among men who are not only
deaf but who have fixed and unalterable ideas on all subjects. And
she has done this in an absorbing and distinguished work that matches
her predecesors' in quality as well as scope.”
From: Coleman, Alexander. “Reconciliation Among the Ruins.”
New York Times Book Review, May 12, 1985, p. 1.
Adams, Robert M. "The
Story Isn't Over." New York Review of Books. July
Of Love and Shadows
“Ms. Allende skillfully evokes both the terrors of daily life
under military rule and the subtler forms of resistance in the hidden
corners and 'shadows' of her title, particularly the churches or
in simple unsung acts of solidarity. At the same time the author
ably captures the voices of the regime’s apologists….
While here prose at times verges on soap opera, that is also one
of her charms. She can just as deftly depict loving tenderness as
convey the fire of eroticism.”
From: Bell-Villalda, Gene. H. “As Isabel Allende Sees Herself.”
New York Times Book Review. July 12, 1987, p. 23.
Hendry, Kim. “Of
Exiles and Healers: Interview with Isabel Allende, a Novelist Who
Was Forced to Flee Chile’s Regime of Terror.” The
Guardian. Wednesday, April 15, 1989.
Stories of Eva Luna
“The Stories of Eva Luna have only the faintest superstructure
connecting them and so must stand up to more scrutiny: in a novel,
the author needs to hook us only once; in a collection, each story
must win us over anew, which is more work for everyone… Eva
Luna’s stories are delicate, their images akin to poetry….And,
like poetry, this prose requires careful attention. Early on, the
book seemed to me like a plate of hors d’oeuvres, each one
tempting, some as exquisite as caviar, but not really adding up
to a meal. I tried, however, to defer judgement until I’d
finished everything on the tray. And once I’d adjusted to
the pace and small scale, it became clear that many of the stories
were perfectly crafted and thematically rich, whole meals themselves…..The
settings sample Latin America from the humid Caribbean to the Antarctic
tip of Argentina....Ms. Allende frames these improbable yet entirely
possible scenarios with magical imagery and tells them in a detached,
From: Kingsolver, Barbara. “Fish Fall From the Sky for
a Reason.” New York Times Book Review. January
20, 1991, p. 13.
“…Allende abandons the hot, politically turbulent Latin
American milieu of her earlier fiction for a generic American setting.
She also exchanges the strong, beautiful heroines of The House
of the Spirits and Eva Luna for a prideful, strutting
male protagonist and trades the softly accented magical realism
of the such previous books for a more leaden-footed brand of naturalism….None
of these events are conjured up with the least bit of originality
or felt emotion: rather, they feel like trite, second-hand orchestrations
of old magazines stories and pulp fiction…”
From: Kukutani, Michiko. “Rites of Passage Towards Great
Unhappiness.” New York Times. June 25, 1993, Section
C, p. 31
“…this memoir…is Ms. Allende’s best work
to date….A mother trying to entertain a bedridden child, she
piles on episode and anecdote in a brilliant flood of autobiographical
reminiscence spanning three generations on four continents. A real-time
account of [her daughter’s] illness…and her family’s
anguish intervenes with increasing insistency, until the two narrative
threads dwindle into one….Celebration rather than despair
provides the overriding tone…in her reportorial mode she’s
unbeatable….Journalism was what Isabel Allende did in her
freewheeling days, before she discovered she could write….she
does it wonderfully well. As Paula courageously reveals,
she has every thing it takes: the ear, the eye, the mind, the hear,
the all-encompassing humanity.”
From: Ruta, Suzanne. “The Long Goodbye.” New
York Times Book Review. May 21, 1995, p. 11.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
Conrad, Peter. “Adventures
With a Wooded Spoon.” The Observer. May 17, 1988.
Daughter of Fortune
Lopez, Ruth. “Left
on a Genteel Doorstep.” New York Times Book Review.
October 24, 1990.
Clark, Alex. “Rags
from Riches.” The Guardian. November 13, 1999.
Portrait in Sepia
Falconer, Helen. “Colouring
the Family Album.” The Guardian. November 17,
Wood, Michael. "Girls
with Green Hair." New York Review of Books. March
My Invented Country
Cameron, Peter. "Migrations."
The New York Times Book Review. June 8, 2003
Jaggi, Maya. "Writing
from a Borrowed Land." The Guardian. November
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