Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daughter of Fortune: Worth the Wait

Even though I LOVED Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, I was not digging the first half of Daughter of Fortune — mostly because it reminded me of the worst, most overrated and ridiculous book ever written, also known as Love in the Time of Cholera. The “love” affair between Eliza and Joaquin Andieta gave me flashbacks of that literary waste of months of my life:

“...she wanted to die right there, pierced by the sensation, sharp and no more to be denied than a sword, that was filling her mouth with warm blood and, even before she could identify it, crushing her with the terrible weight of idealized love ... That autumn morning when she saw Joaquin Andieta in the patio of her home, Eliza thought she had met her destiny; she would be his slave forever.”

Eek. Had this been another Marquez monstrosity, I probably would have just given up, but keeping the author in mind, I plowed through the disturbing “love” scenes and was luckily rewarded when the story moved from Chile to California during the 1849 Gold Rush. Although Eliza goes to California in search of her “sweetheart,” in doing so she breaks free of her Victorian upbringing, gender constraints and eventually her deranged, overblown case of puppy love. And her transformation is illustrated by Allende’s writing, which goes from over-the-top, flowery language to tell-it-like-it-is descriptions of Wild West brutality. My favorite part:

“She fell in love with freedom. In the Sommers’ home she had lived shut up within four walls, in a stagnant atmosphere where time moved in circles and where she could barely glimpse the horizon through distorted windowpanes. She had grown up clad in the impenetrable armor of good manners and conventions, trained from girlhood to please and serve, bound by corset, routines, social norms, and fear. Fear had been her companion: fear of God and his unpredictable justice, of authority, of her adoptive parents, of illness and evil tongues, of anything unknown or different; fear of leaving the protection of her home and facing the dangers outside; fear of her own fragility as a woman, of dishonor and truth. Hers had been a sugar-coated reality built on the unspoken, on courteous silences, well-guarded secrets, order, and discipline. She had aspired to virtue but now she questioned the meaning of the word... She had left Chile with the purpose of finding her lover and becoming his slave forever, believing that was the way to extinguish her thirst to submit and her hidden wish for possession, but now she doubted that she could give up those new wings beginning to sprout on her shoulders.”

I’d like to think of Daughter of Fortune as a kind of rejection of Marquez’s twisted version of love, but One Hundred Years of Solitude is listed as one of Allende’s favorite books on the “About the author” page in the back of my edition. I suppose I’d have to read it to further investigate my theory ... and I’d rather not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you. All this time I'd been thinking that I was the only one who detested Love in the Time of Cholera.


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