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Daughters of Fortune Book Review

Isabel Allende is well-known for writing stories featuring strong women who defy social norms, and Daughters of Fortune is no different. Eliza Sommers embodies these traits while simultaneously adapting to both her adoptive parents’ strict patriarchy and finding her voice within.

Like a tapestry, Allende weaves her story from many threads into an exquisite whole. Some critics have pointed out the overt feminist themes and magical realism prevalent throughout her ninth novel while others have called it tall tale.

The Story

Daughters of Fortune explores how love can change lives in its various forms. The tale begins when Eliza Sommers was unexpectedly given birth in Chile by brother-and-sister pair Jeremy and Rose Sommers (father and mother respectively). Though Rose resigns herself to spinsterhood, she takes an interest in raising Eliza like her own daughter due to teachings from Mama Fresia (the Sommers’ Indian servant who taught culinary and medicinal secrets to Eliza as she grew up). Eliza’s mixed heritage and mysterious parentage unconsciously influence her decisions throughout her adventurous journey.

Daughters of Fortune is Allende’s debut novel and marks her individual style. Although still deeply steeped in magic realism, its derivative qualities found in earlier works have been toned down significantly; Eliza Sommers’ supernatural powers and ability to communicate with dead no longer feature as prominently, although both remain integral parts of the novel.

Allende remains committed to social justice issues despite her shift toward magic realism, depicting women’s struggle for recognition in male-dominated societies as she explores these characters’ adventures – such as their battle to gain status within them – whilst showing the transformation of mining camps into more peaceful communities with preachers, merchants and miners all coming together in one space.

The title of this book alludes not only to precious metal fortune but also the American Dream. Eliza Sommers would have been subservient wife in Chile but emerges in California as an independent member of society, opening a French patisserie and dreaming of starting her own business. Paulina de la Santa Cruz nee Del Valle operates a successful steamship line between Chile and California that transports produce and culture, providing her financial independence from her husband.

Allende’s use of magical realism is balanced by her keen desire to present an engaging story. Perhaps her experience as a journalist explains her straightforward narrative style, which rarely resorts to dramatizing events or having her characters act out their parts; nonetheless, Allende provides enough action-filled scenes in her novel for readers to become immersed in this dramatic tale.

The Characters

Allende presents many characters whose lives intersect with Eliza Sommers in this novel, giving her readers a comprehensive account of them all. At first, Eliza provides details about both her family and Chilean culture; but much of part one focuses on Eliza’s personal struggles; in comparison, part two seems more episodic or disjointed. Peter Donaldson of New Statesman notices that the second half of this novel veers away from its initial clarity, making the story less engaging overall. Although he enjoyed reading it, Donaldson believes that its impact could have been enhanced had the author maintained her more focused intent throughout.

Daughters of Fortune follows Eliza Sommers’ journey back into her rightful fortune through love. After an initial experience of love entices her away from her family home and into California’s Gold Rush. While her friends and family try to dissuade her from doing this, Eliza decides she must pursue it anyway and pursue her true fortune.

Eliza Sommers struggles throughout her life to establish both identity and purpose. Growing up as the daughter of Rose Sommers, an English widow living in India with Mama Fresia as their Indian maid; then learning she is half Chilean at 16. This complicated background influences Eliza’s decisions unknowingly.

Allende depicts Eliza as a woman torn between her familial obligations and her desire for autonomy, as her journey from Chile to California illustrates this tension between family obligations and personal ambitions.

Allende has written an engaging historical novel: The Daughters of Fortune is an epic tale about one woman’s quest for personal and spiritual freedom in pursuit of personal fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment. Allende showcases her expertise with magic realism in this unique work. Allende stands as an icon among Latin American authors of her generation – this work speaks for itself!

The Setting

Isabel Allende has written another outstanding historical novel with Daughters of Fortune, set during a turbulent midpoint of the 19th Century across four continents and filled with Allende’s signature magic. Allende has created vivid characters who are fully developed while the plot remains captivating – making this her first book published since 2006 an impressive addition to her impressive body of work.

Daughters of Fortune marks a distinct departure from the magic realism she was known for in earlier work. Though its plot and characters do contain elements of magic, such as Eliza Sommers having special olfactory and memory abilities, it doesn’t delve as deeply into fantasy territory as The House of Spirits did.

Allende, one of Latin America’s premier writers from Chilean descent, wrote this novel to explore her experiences with feminism. Eliza Sommers makes the journey from Valparaiso, Chile to California during the Gold Rush in 1848-49 – on both an attempt to secure riches as well as struggling to define herself as both woman and independent thinker.

After the success of Daughters of Fortune, Allende published several other novels that explored other aspects of Latin American history and culture, such as Hija de la fortuna (Daughters of Fortune; 1999), Retrato en sepia (Portrait in Sepia; 2000) and El Zorro (Zorro; 2005).

Allende explained during an interview that she was inspired to write this novel because of its turbulent setting: Chile during its political changes was an exciting period that she wanted to depict through her story (as exciting as playing online slot games on websites listed over the Allende enjoyed weaving historical facts together with fictional creations to craft a compelling tale reminiscent of Franz Kafka or Ernest Hemingway’s writing styles.

The Author

Daughters of Fortune is Isabel Allende’s fifth novel and follows Eliza Sommers from Valparaiso to California during Gold Rush times as she searches for herself and finds peace within herself. Allende draws upon her experience as both journalist and feminist to create this timeless narrative which both entertains and informs.

Beginning as a newborn in Chilean port city Valparaiso, Eliza Sommers was left by her sister Rose’s family as an abandoned newborn baby on their doorstep. Resigned to spinsterhood, Rose took Eliza in and raised her as her own daughter – becoming particularly close with Mama Fresia, one of their Indian servants who shared culinary and medicinal secrets from an ancient culture with Eliza over time.

At 16, Eliza decides to pursue her first love to California despite fears from her sister that this will disapprove and attempts to keep it hidden from her – only for him to deceive her eventually and she stows away on a ship headed for San Francisco and embarks on an attempt to find him there.

Eliza meets and learns about many people and experiences during her travels through California, from mining camps to more civilized communities formed around various mines. Along the way she gains insight into their lives while simultaneously discovering more about herself and the world she inhabits.

As the book progresses, Eliza becomes more remarkable; she can see ghosts and communicate with them, while being able to turn back time. These abilities and her strong relationships with those she meets add an extra dimension that draws readers in and keeps them engaged throughout. Allende moves away from more fantastically real elements found in earlier works such as House of the Spirits but still contains elements of magic realism which add an element of magical realism which adds charm. Furthermore, her straightforward narrative style keeps readers hooked while pulling them along on her journey through history.