Isabel Allende | Critical Review by Jane Urquhart

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Isabel Allende.
This section contains 542 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Jane Urquhart

Critical Review by Jane Urquhart

SOURCE: "Tales from Isabel Allende's Passionate, Magical World," in Quill and Quire, Vol. 56, No. 11, November, 1990, p. 25.

Urquhart is a Canadian poet, novelist, and short story writer whose works include Changing Heaven (1990). In the following mixed review of The Stories of Eva Luna, she states that "what one takes away from this collection is a sense of the richness of life with all its attendant mysteries, celebrations, and miseries."

This collection of fabular fictions [The Stories of Eva Luna], which is a kind of surrealistic spin-off from Isabel Allende's last novel, Eva Luna, opens with the photographer/journalist Rolf Carlé making a request. He wants Eva, who has become his lover at the end of the previous book, to tell a story just for him.

What follows is a series of 23 tall tales, which may or may not refer to characters encountered in the novel, and which take the reader on a strange journey through a densely populated world of city slums and lush tropical forests where even the architecture seems to be prone to tempestuous emotion. A palace is inhabited by aboriginal spirits and devoured by vegetation at the same time; the house of a murderer is itself murdered by mangos; innocent villages are buried under "unfathomable meters of telluric vomit."

As might be expected, the human beings that inhabit these landscapes are most often slaves to their own passions and obsessions and highly susceptible to the lightning strike of romantic love. An 11-year-old girl falls in love with her mother's lover; a Colonel falls in love with a woman who sells words; a reformed guerrilla fighter falls in love with a woman he has raped during one of his bloody campaigns; and Rolf Carlé himself falls in love with a pathetic little girl who is buried up to her chest in mud. Wars, social injustices, and natural disasters pale beside the fury of these romantic fires which, in Allende's world, either cleanse or kill, leaving the men, especially—often ruffians and desperados—shaken right down to their spurs.

What is most admirable about this collection is Allende's ability to portray a world in which the ordinary and the miraculous, the natural and the supernatural, the political and the particular not only co-exist but actually affect one another to the extent that there are no absolutes. Allende is remarkably democratic in this regard, showing us the emotional vulnerability of a corrupt political figure on one hand and the single-minded obstinacy of a humanitarian priest on the other.

What one longs for, occasionally, in the midst of this barrage of multiple situations and characters, is a closer look. Allende's vision is so baroque and, in some instances, so cluttered that she doesn't seem to be able to slow down long enough to focus, to provide, perhaps, a moment or two of reflection and a clearer view of the inner lives of her characters.

In the end, however, what one takes away from this collection is a sense of the richness of life with all its attendant mysteries, celebrations, and miseries. That and the power of stories to transform remembered experiences that otherwise, as Allende points out, would be "but a hint of emotion, a caprice of mind, an image, or an intangible recollection."

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This section contains 542 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Jane Urquhart
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