Isabel Allende | Critical Review by Eleanor J. Bader

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Isabel Allende.
This section contains 549 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Eleanor J. Bader

Critical Review by Eleanor J. Bader

SOURCE: A review of The Stories of Eva Luna, in Belles Lettres: A Review of Books by Women, Vol. 6, No. 3, Spring, 1991, p. 60.

In the following review, Bader calls Allende a "master storyteller" but questions her treatment of women and feminist issues in The Stories of Eva Luna.

Like virtually every American, I remember exactly what I was doing when George Bush declared war on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people: I was reading "Our Secret," one of the short stories in Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna.

Prescient and poignant, this tale is a slice-of-life look at two people who meet on the street, pick each other up for what they assume will be an afternoon's romp between the sheets, and unwittingly discover a shared past of torture and abuse at the hands of an unspecified tyrant. In just five pages, "Our Secret" gives the lie to rhetoric about short wars or avoiding civilian casualties. It is an amazing story, the best of Allende's most recent offering.

The volume is presented as the recollected wisdom of Eva Luna, the renowned storyteller who is the title character in Allende's 1988 novel Eva Luna. While several of the protagonists from that book have roles to play in The Stories, each piece in this collection can stand alone.

Nonetheless, some of the same problems evidenced in Eva Luna plague Allende's latest effort. Although she is a master storyteller, a dazzling writer, and an incisive social critic, she has several troubling blind spots. As in Eva Luna, several of the stories involve middle-aged men lusting after teenaged girls, often stepdaughters or other relatives. When the prepubescent nymphs return the advances foisted upon them, it is as if Allende, in one fell swoop, is attempting to wipe out the two decades of important work feminists have done to publicize and condemn incest and father-right.

Similarly, she seems enchanted by the allure of power, seeing dictators and high-level military men as sexy or seductive. Woman after woman is undone by an unsmiling, unfeeling, macho brute of a man. If I didn't know better I'd be led to conclude that a uniform and a gruff manner are irresistible aphrodisiacs.

Still Allende's skill as a crafter of intrigue, irony, and supernatural power renders many of the stories touching, provocative, and entertaining. Many of the characters—from an old woman who "dies of amazement when the pope came for a visit and was met in the street by homosexuals dressed as nuns," to Rolf Carle, a European photojournalist who is assigned to cover a volcano eruption and in the process meets a thirteen-year-old who teaches him to face his past with honesty and passion—are memorable and captivating. There is Walimai, a native man who frees a member of "the tribe of Ila, the people of gentle heart," from the grip of colonial slavemasters intent on raping her as a spoil of aggression. And there's Belisa Crepusculario, a storyteller whose magical weaving of words has the power to make The Colonel abandon his frenzied search for power and might.

There is much beauty here, and an almost spellbinding poetic prose. Somehow, though these qualities make The Stories of Eva Luna all the more frustrating, for the book's deficits stand out, stark, in a sea of otherwise pleasurable moments.

(read more)

This section contains 549 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Eleanor J. Bader
Follow Us on Facebook