Wine & Olives Rating: OOOO (Four Olives)
SUMMARY: Uber-priveleged right-wing landowner Esteban Treuba; a man with more money than sense; haunted by the spirits of mystical realism that seem to inform all South American novels, gradually boards the Better Person Train for a more liberal Chile. Unfortunately, it takes the whole book.
This Book Made Me Want To: Grab the first hundred Chileans I could find and apologize profusely to them. America’s role in promoting the Pinochet dictatorship was shameful and finding out about at the age of 42 shocking.
Random Fact: The nearest Chilean restaurant is 1,196 miles from my house in Spokane, WA. (Chilenazo, in Los Angeles. Would it be worth the estimated $187.50 in gas to drive down and experience the pastel de choclo, Chile’s national dish?)
The first time the narrator raped someone I almost put the book down for good. It is a testament to Allende’s skill that I kept reading and even, by the end of the book, almost found myself liking the man or maybe feeling sorry for him.
The way the landowners are portrayed, treating the peasants, the Indians, women, and animals as badly as possible, just confirms what I already think about wealth without work and commerce without morality (two of Gandhi’s “seven sins of passive violence”); Communism, and the struggles of the working class.
And if we’re not careful, America could go the way of Chile as far as a right-wing, military-led dictatorship where people disappear and oppressive economic capitalism is carefully propped up by a corrupt system.
I was especially struck by the passage in the book where she describes the widening gap between the landowners and the poor (wealth creates poverty) and between the liberal and the conservative factions, which gradually became dangerously extreme.
Yep, sounds like here.
Allende’s writing is beautiful and reminds me of The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a fantastic novel of Mexico, as well as the convoluted but lovely sentence structures of Jane Austen.