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 wikipedia.org 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: