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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ines of My Soul

Ines of My Soul
by Isabel Allende
audio book: 12.5 hours

originally written in Spanish

*** About the Book ***

Ines Suarez was born in 1507 in Spain and became a conquistadora in the conquest of Chile in the 1530s-1540s. This book tells the story of her life from her childhood in Spain and her first marriage, through her journey to the Americas and her life as a mistress, to her part in the conquest of Chile and her final marriage. AND … it is all based on historical fact. I had no idea there were FEMALE conquistadors!

*** My Thoughts ***

It has been a few days since I finished listening to this audio book and my appreciation for it has grown over those days. There were parts of the story that dragged, where I didn’t give my complete attention to listening. There were parts that captured me, where I had to rewind to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. My first reaction when I finished it was “ok, this wasn’t a bad book but it wasn’t a great book either.” However, after thinking about it for a few days and doing a bit of research into Ines (see “The Real History” below) I must say that this is an amazing book.

Knowing what I know now about the real Ines, I am amazed at the way Allende infused the facts of the story with personality and feeling. I always enjoy learning about history through novels, but the plethora of facts she included (without me realizing it!) is simply amazing. Allende has written 14 other books but this is the first of her works that I’ve tried; I'm curious to know whether her other books are written in the same was or not.

One thing I need to point out is that there are descriptions of torture in this book (the Spaniards, like other conquerors, were not exactly kind to the native people) that may be too much for some readers. There is also a great deal of violence – this was a conquest after all. I didn’t think that either aspect of the book was overdone or that it didn’t fit into the purpose of the novel, but parts did make my skin crawl all the same.

*** The Real History ***

There is a wonderful article on that details the true history of Ines Suarez. I wish I had read that before listening to this audio book as I think it would have given me a greater appreciation for Ines. I didn’t realize that some of the more fantastical parts of the story are actually present in the historical record. I suggest that if you decide to read/listen to this book, you check out that post before reading, then read it again after finishing the book. It definitely added to my appreciation of the book.

*** Historical Fiction vs. Creative Non-Fiction ***

On the one hand, this book is clearly an example of Historical Fiction. The story is based in fact (more so than most historical fiction novels) but embellished to draw the reader into the tale.

On the other hand, Back when I read CANE RIVER I found that book described as “creative non-fiction”. According to Wikipedia, creative non-fiction “(also known as literary or narrative nonfiction) is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives.” Basically, it is when you make a non-fiction story read like fiction. I’m not sure that it was an accurate description of CANE RIVER, but if it was, then it is an accurate description of INES OF MY SOUL as well.

*** About the Audio Book ***

The narrator was Blair Brown and she did a good job. Not great, but good. I don’t have much to say either way on her performance.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Is this time/place in history familiar to you? Do you know of other books set in a similar time/place? This was the first time I'd read anything other than history textbook accounts of the Spanish conquest of South America.

Anyone interested in reading this one? Let me know your thoughts!

Here are other reviews of this book you might want to check out:
Did I miss yours? Let me know and I'll add it here.


Lenore said...

Also didn't know about female conquistadors - going to check out your link to the historical background.

Anna said...

Thanks for linking to my review!

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I think it would have been a completely different experience to listen to this one. Knowing how my mind wanders -- which is why I hardly ever listen to audio books -- I don't think I would have enjoyed listening to it as much as I did reading it. I really had to pay attention to this one.

Diary of an Eccentric

Heather J. said...

Lenore - It was fascinating to me, and I wish I'd known how much of the book was true while I was reading it.

Heather J. said...

Anna - I did a lot of rewinding and replaying with this one for exactly that reason, but it was worth it.

softdrink said...

I couldn't finish this one. I found the premise to be fascinating, but I'm not a fan of Allende's writing style.

Heather J. said...

softdrink - She IS a bit wordy, and I admit that I tuned out the story more than a few times, but knowing the real history of Ines now, I am amazed at the way Allende put it all together. Not sure I could have READ it though ...

Amanda said...

I haven't read this one yet but I've read Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia. Portrait in Sepia is my favorite and it's one of those all-time favorites. You should check it out.

StephanieD said...

A new Isabel Allende novel, awesome!

Lauren R. said...

Ines of my soul was maybe the 5th or 6th Allende book that I've read, and I absolutely love her, from her characterization to her ability to match fiction to history. I see from an above comment that you're not into wordiness, which definitely limits your Allende selections :) I would probably suggest Zorro, which is set in both Alta California and Spain during the colonizing period. She definitely limits her flowery-ness on that least

Heather J. said...

Amanda & Lauren R - Thanks for the suggestions!

StephanieD - Glad you stopped by!

violetcrush said...

This book sounds wonderful, I love the name and the cover too. I just bought 2 other books by Allende, The Forest of the Pygmies and one more. I can't wait to read them :)

Heather J. said...

violet - I look forward to seeing your reviews of those Allende books!

Kailana said...

Isabel Allende has always been one of my auto-buys. That being said, I have owned this since it came out and STILL haven't read it! I have to read Zorro, too. One day I will...

Heather J. said...

Kailana - I can't say how it compares to her other books but I'm glad I read it.

Beth F said...

I liked the Allende books I've listened to. I haven't gotten to this one yet or to Zorro.

I'll remember to do a bit of research before listening to Ines.

Heather J. said...

Beth F - I hope you enjoy it!

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