Monday, November 16, 2009

A Personal Story of Isabel Allende

After reading a novel based in Latin America going back to 16th Century times of the Spanish conquistadores, let's learn about the author behind the story.Chilean author Isabel Allende has written three memoirs, her first one is called Paula, a memoir she writes dedicated to her daughter.

Here's a book summary:

Writing nonfiction for the first time, she interweaves the story of her own life with the slow dying of her 28-year-old daughter, Paula. A magician with words, Allende makes this grim scenario into a wondrous encounter with the innermost sorrows and joys of another human being.In 1991, while living in Madrid with her husband, Paula was felled by porphyria, a rare blood disease, and, despite endless care by her mother and husband, lapsed into an irreversible coma. Her mother, as she watched by Paula's bedside, began to write this book, driven by a desperation to communicate with her unconscious daughter. She writes of her own Chilean childhood, the violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende, and the family's flight to Venezuela from the oppressive Pinochet regime. Allende explores her relationship with her own mother, documented in the hundreds of letters they exchanged since she left home. Allende later married-and divorced-an undemanding and loyal man and became a fierce feminist, rebelling against the constraints of traditional Latin American society.

Please join us for a great discussion on Sunday December 6 at 2pm - Location TBD - hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A fearless woman ahead of her times

It was a wonderful discussion about Ines Suarez and her journey to South America at a time when no one knew much about this "New" World. Ines follows her first husband, not for love, but to find her freedom, as she couldn't make anything of herself in Spain. She took up the challenge and crossed the ocean on a ship full of men and her niece to find herself stalked by a man who tries to rape her any chance he gets.

She manages to survive and goes on to Peru to find her husband. Once she finds out he's died, her life seems to begin as she's free to make her own choices and follows her lover Pedro de Valdivia to Chile. Here is when the book starts filling itself with so many battle scenes between the indigenous and the Spaniards.

It was fascinating to learn more about the different historical figures from the Spanish conquest times. Isabel Allende truly has a great writing style, but the memoir-esque style of the character Ines Sastre, makes herself sound snobby at times, focusing on her strength and not her flaws.

It just so happened that Ines found the perfect man in Rodrigo de Quiroga, who did anything for Ines. But Ines chose to end her story with Pedro de Valdivia, giving quite an abrupt ending to a woman's memoir.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Now learn about South American History!

From Africa, let's travel to Latin America and read a historical fiction novel by popular Chilean author Isabel Allende called Ines of my Soul.

Here's a book summary:

Only months after the inauguration of Chile's first female president, Isabel Allende recounts in her usual sweeping style the grand tale of Doña Inés Suárez (1507– 1580), arguably the country's founding mother. Writing in the year of her death, Inés tells of her modest girlhood in Spain and traveling to the New World as a young wife to find her missing husband, Juan. Upon learning of Juan's humiliating death in battle, Inés determines to stay in the fledgling colony of Peru, where she falls fervently in love with Don Pedro de Valdivia, loyal field marshal of Francisco Pizarro.

Basing the tale on documented events of her heroine's life, Allende crafts a swift, thrilling epic, packed with fierce battles and passionate romance.

Please join us for a great discussion on Sunday November 1 at 2pm - We're meeting at the Old Jerusalem Cafe, on 1340 Irving Street (between 14th Ave & 15th Ave) - hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Learning some American History

This book highlighted a part of history that is not widely familiar - the foundation of Liberia by freed African slaves traveling back to their home continent after being educated and raised in the United States.

Helene Cooper does a wonderful job of writing her childhood memories parallel to the history of Liberia involving her ancestors, coincidentally having both sides of her parents come from historical founding father figures of the country. What we all appreciated was her honesty of telling us her story without judgement, but to lay it as it is. This provoked more discussion including how her mother defended her childhood, her relationship with Eunice, her "sister," and her relationship with her father. It was fascinating to see how they all exiled from Liberia and yet the parents would go back quite frequently in spite of the dangers, to make money to support their children's education.

It was quite the page turner! I think we would have liked to know more of her life, as we were left with that feeling of wanting more and not missing out in any details.