Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Magical Realism and String Hoppers

Our book club met last night at Muntaj's house to consider The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. I hadn't felt like rereading the novel and my recollection of it was somewhat hazy.

(What remains with you after you read a book? An atmosphere, a vague impression, a memory of how you felt, a web of associations to do with where you were, and who you were with, and the room you sat in when you were reading it? Meanwhile, the story itself quietly slips further and further away ...)

But it was such a pleasure to see the reactions of most of the others, meeting both the novel and Allende's writing for the first time.

There was much laughter over favourite episodes, some had found it 'spooky' in parts since the dead walk around quite comfortably with the living, and Clara emerged as the favourite character. Comparisons were drawn with One Hundred Years of Solitude which we read last year, and overall the Marquez was preferred. 'Magical realism' has taken up residence in everyone's vocabulary now.

My own feelings about this novel are now very much coloured by having read Paula, Allende's extended letter to her daughter lying in a coma. This book revisits much of the same family history, but also tells Allende's own story. And goodness, this lady has certainly lived a life. You feel so much for this mother, grieving her daughter's slow death in a Spanish hospital, and coping with that pain by telling stories.

Sandra did a great job of leading the discussion and had put a lot of effort into her research, and Muntaj had cooked some delicious curries to go with string hoppers for supper. Many thanks!

Related Posts

On Allende:

Where Do little Stories Come From, Mummy? (23/7/05)

On Our Book Club:

Fiction & Friends (9/11/04)
What Book Lovers Look Like (16/2/05)
From Clouds to Kofta and Kulfi (2/3/05)
Time Travelling (31/5/05)
The Harmony Silk Factory Tour of Perak (21/6/05)
The Buzz on the Bee Book (29/8/05)
Kunzru Makes an Impression (17/10/05)
Ouch! Let Me Go! (17/11/05)
Malgudi Revisited (6/12/05)


Sharanya said...

Oh I love "Paula"... It's truly one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. One of those books for which, as you said, I remember not only the rooms in which I read it, but also plot details, lines, etc. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

"Allende's extended letter to her daughter lying in a coma."

Now there's an interesting idea, write a personal letter to your daughter, who's lying in a coma, and then try to make money off of it. Brilliant, why didn't I try that, I've got lots of personal letters I can publish :)