Monday, March 23, 2009

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

I went to high school at a point when mainstream literature was being replaced by so-called "minority literature." The long and short of it was that I read almost no worthwhile literature for three years - either mainstream or minority. I have made an effort in the years since high school to remedy my lack of literary education and read as many of the high school classics as I missed - both mainstream and minority (although I honestly don't understand the definitions of mainstream and minority but that is a whole different conversation).

I picked up a copy of Eva Luna at the library book sale and left it on my bookshelf until this month. It is the first example of Magical Realism that I have read (I saw Like Water for Chocolate but never read the book). It was fascinating. I heartily enjoyed it. I'm thrilled to have read a piece of good literature. But... (there has to be a but or else it wouldn't merit a blog post, right?)

I found that Eva Luna was hard to read consecutively. It is NOT light reading like what I often read. The amount of detailed description while integral to the story and enjoyable because it was so different from typical American lit was heavy and had to be absorbed in parts. I found that it was best read on my way to and from work. Otherwise I was likely to put the book down and look for something else to read. Maybe that makes me non-literary, but there you have it.

The topic of the book was incredibly fascinating. Eva Luna spans the decades from World War II to the 1980s. The two main characters Eva and Rolf Carlé live through a decided number of historical events including the end of World War II and the creation of democracy in Latin/South America. I had to read up on Allende's work to see if she described the political workings of any specific South American country. It appears that the story is fictional but is most similar to Chile and Venezuela.

The characters with whom Eva interacts and the worlds that they inhabit are so starkly removed from contemporary America that it is hard to comprehend their mores and beliefs. Nonetheless, I feel like I have a slightly better understanding for what life is like in the non-Western world. In addition, the book is humorous and has fun characters like Mimi that are so different from American lit as to be deeply intriguing.

I will definitely pick up more Magical Realism. But I would never pretend that it is a light read that I can enjoy while my children run around me. It is the kind of book that takes full attention.

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