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Isabel Allende
Stanford Humanities Center



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 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 18, 1985.

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.



Eva Luna
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, mythic voice."

From: Kingsolver, Barbara. “Fish Fall From the Sky for a Reason.” New York Times Book Review. January 20, 1991, p. 13.


Infinite Plan
“…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, 2001.

Wood, Michael. "Girls with Green Hair." New York Review of Books. March 14, 2002.


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 1, 2003.


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