Friday, January 05, 2007

Book Review: Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende

Leave it to Isabel Allende to reassess the past, individual and collective, from a feminine -- though not a feminist -- perspective. Her new novel, "Inés of My Soul," is structured in the form of a " crónica, " or account, using the standard devices of the form, including placing the narrator at the grave's edge, at the Spanish conquest of Chile, in the 16th century.

The protagonist and narrator is the fiery Doña Inés de Suárez, who is known in textbook s as conquistador Pedro de Valdivia's lover and a "defender" in the battle of Santiago, when, in 1541, the indigenous population rebelled against Spanish power.

Doña Inés is about 70 when she reminisces about her involvement in the so-called Chilean war of 1549 to 1553, and the events that led her to it. She tells the story to Doña Isabel de Quiroga, her daughter with her second husband. (Doña Isabel is a concoction, since Doña Inés is said to have been sterile.) "That I can write down these memories and thoughts with paper and ink," Doña Inés says, "is owing to the good graces of the priest González de Marmolejo, who took the time, amid his labors of evangelizing savages and consoling Christians, to teach me to read."
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