Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende (Audio)

You know I've been saying that since the TBR Dare started, I've been "off" blog tours and other commitments.  But if you know Trish at TLC (and of Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'?) you know she is nothing if not compelling.  When she offered me not only Isabel Allende's most recent book "Island Beneath the Sea" but some of her back list for a tour, my shoulders slumped and I gave in.  I listened to Allende's "Sum of our Days", her memoir, a few years ago and I loved her cultural, literary voice and her personality.  I've been intending to dip into her historical fiction and this was the perfect chance.

Synopsis:  Eliza Sommers was born an orphan in Valparaiso Chile, and adopted by a wealthy family consisting of the beautiful spinster Rose, and her two entrepreneurial brothers John and Jeremy.  Raised as a proper lady, with lessons in etiquette, languages and music, Eliza's entire life was spent preparing for the eventuality of marrying a man of means.  But when 16-year-old Eliza falls in love with a poor clerk full of impassioned ideas, she casts aside good sense and follows her lover to California and to the heart of the gold rush.

With the help from her friend Tao Chi'en, Eliza arrives in California to find it full of crazed men, prostitutes, highway robbers and crooked politicians, all trying to make their fortune.  To protect herself, she poses as a man, and sets off to find her lover.  Instead, she reinvents herself, learning about survival and what love really means. 

My thoughts:  What a treat this audiobook was!  From her memoir, I sense that Allende is a woman full of passion and courage, and it seems that her personality was channelled into Eliza.  It was easy to believe in Eliza from the beginning, despite the fact that she fell head over heels in love with the Wrong Guy.  (Let's admit it.  It happens.  It's not a fatal flaw, assuming you grow up and learn to make better choices.)  Eliza is strong and determined, and I admired her for her belief in her mission.  For a pampered socialite, she held her own.

Then there is the whole historical part of the story.  The Chilean culture, its growth and development into an international economy, and its people who participated in staking their claims in other parts of the world.  I also found the stories of the birth of California, San Francisco and the gold rush to be incredibly fascinating.  I love to learn a thing or two while I'm being entertained. 

Allende doesn't leave anything on the table, whether it be historical or character background.  She gives everyone and everything it's full due.  I might even suggest there is too much background on some of the characters (I remember wondering if "all this detail" was relevant) but it certainly gives the story heft and depth. 

In my mind, Allende stands out from most other authors for her dramatic and passionate prose.  It makes sense to me, as I live in a community that has a very high concentration of Hispanics, and they are all about drama and passion and what some of them have called their "salsa".  But within this style is a feeling of things being overdone.  Allende's characters feel a tad bit over-the-top, where the men have prowess and magnetism, the women have superb skills in the bedroom (or learn adeptly), they fall in love quickly and deeply, they are talented in whatever they do.  There is a touch of fairytale in the storytelling.  I admit to a little eye-rolling, but ultimately allowed myself to buy into the illusion for the sake of entertainment.

A word about the audio production:  My heartfelt applause to whoever made the decision to hire Blair Brown as the narrator of everything Allende.  Since I listened to her narrate "Sum of Our Days", her voice will forever be Allende's voice:  rich, skillful at Spanish pronunciation, passionate with a sliver of no-nonsense.  Brown was back in my ears with this production, and I couldn't have been happier.  I know most authors have no involvement in the choice of narrators, but I'm going to pretend that Allende had everything to do with this one.
 

4.5 out of 5 stars     
  


20 comments:

Beth F said...

I'm a huge Allende fan (as you might have noticed from my recent Imprint Friday) and I loved this book -- and the audio version.

JoAnn said...

... and the print version was just as wonderful, too!

farmlanebooks said...

Allende is one of those authors I always feel I should have read and I actually own quite a few of her books. I'm glad to hear that this one was so good - I really should give one a try.

Zibilee said...

I am so mad at myself because I had this book sitting on my shelf for ages, and then I gave it away in one of my purges. It sounds like the perfect book for me, and if I can get the husband to look away for a moment, I might just go ahead and order it again! Great review, Sandy!

bermudaonion said...

I listened to an interview of Allende a year ago or so and she captivated me. I've been meaning to try her work ever since. It sounds like audio might be the way to go.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds great! I know what you mean about that Trish- she knows how to be a temptress! Lisa is no slouch in that department either! :--)

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I loved this book, though I haven't listened to any of her books I think I'm going to have to because I love Blair Brown. I remember being so engrossed with Daughter of Fortune I hated to put it down. Now, I think I may have to give it a listen.

Susan said...

I read this last year and loved it! Blair Brown was one of my favorite actresses in her heyday. She's been in a few good movies in the last few years. Her work is always stellar.

heidenkind said...

I kinda want to read her book about Zorro. I really liked watching that show when I was a kid.

Amy said...

The audio production spounds wonderful. I think I'll have to tey listening to one of Allende's books. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, too Sandy. Great review!

Trisha said...

I've only read one Allende, but I loved it, so I jumped at the chance to read more of her when Trish emailed too. :)

Jenny said...

I've had this book on my TBR for years, LOL!! I've always heard it's really good. I'm thinking I'll really like it... even the fairy tale parts I think I might like, LOL!

SuziQoregon said...

I listened to this one a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I agree that Blair Brown was an excellent choice to read this. Now that I know she reads other Allende books I may have to request the audio versions from my library.

Darlene said...

Nice review. I have this one on my shelf and would love some time to read it. It sounds like it would be a really good one to listen to though. Glad you enjoyed it.

Julie P. said...

I've always wanted to read this one....

heathertlc said...

I love Allende on audio too! I've only listened to one book so far but it was beautifully narrated (and I'm quite picky about that) and beautifully written.

I'm so glad you gave in to Trish and joined the tour. :)

Jenners said...

I'm learning that a good narrator can elevate a middling book to new heights. And can you believe I've never read anything by this author?

Melissa said...

I have this book in print, but will now be switching to the audio version when ever I do read it. And yes, Trish is very convincing. :)

Serena said...

I haven't listened to the audio of this, but I can imagine it. I adored the book when it came out and I read it in paperback. Allende is a phenomenal writer.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Trish strikes again! :) And this one sounds like an absolute treat - another win in the audio world, and one that I'm going to make sure I download for my next work trip when I'm stuck in an airport...! :)