Thursday, March 15, 2007

Review of Ines of My Soul, Isabel Allende

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ines of My Soul, Isabel Allende published by Harper Collins
From a provincial village in Spain, where young Ines marries her lover to avoid servitude to her grandfather, to Peru and Chile, where she joins conquistadors to carve empires from the jungle, this is an exciting read. Based on the life of Ines Suarez, Allende's imagination makes history come to life.

When her husband abandons her to search for gold in Peru, Ines decides to follow her own inclination for adventure in the New World. Working as a seamstress, cooking empanadas, and gaining doctoring skills, she pays her way and fate leads her to the future governor of Chile, the military genius responsible for the victory of the Spainards over the Indian tribes. She's with him until, like Pisarro, he succumbs to the corruption of power, including atrocities to the Indians.

Ines' honesty is searing. She sees through the hypocrisies of the church, the intrigues of kings and governors, the civility of the brutal conquistadors, the friendly ruses of Indian tribes, and her own subterfuges, when survival trumps her religious training. There is also her compelling observations of the mysterious Indian boy she raises, who turns out to be the one man capable of defeating the governor.

Ines treats epidemics, feeds multitudes, douses for water in deserts, creates homes, hospitals, schools, and mothers adopted children. Yet during a crucial battle with the Indians over the city of Santiago, she finally breaks and goes crazy. Her actions save the city at a huge personal price--the experience of her own brutality. The portrayal of Indians, from royalty to priests and warriors is sympathetically detailed. Friends and worthy enemies, she experiences with them the tragedy of empire. This book is at once an epic romance, military history, and a lusty exotic adventure.