Isabel Allende has written a momentous work with her novel, The House of the Spirits. This magical novel is about mental and physical oppression in all forms whether it be a marriage, a love relationship, or at the hands of a political dictatorship. The author depicts man’s propensity for cruelty, his need for revenge to reassert his power, and his quest to impose his will via deceit and lack of compassion for the weak. But Allendes’s male characters are not all despots. The patriarch of this Trueba family saga, Esteban, has fathered a son whose sole goal in life is help the poor and needy with his medical skills. His daughter and granddaughter are passionately linked to men who fight for freedom and justice for the lower classes of society.

What you won’t find in this book are women who share the same cruel tendencies as her male characters. They are all compassionate, industrious, generous, and willing to forgive all the evil happening around them—even Esteban’s favourite prostitute becomes a charitable business woman who willingly helps out her old friends. Allende’s ultimate message—that the days of despots ‘are numbered, because they have not been able to destroy the spirit of these women’—is an honourable one, but has in turn sacrificed the roundedness of her characters.

A profound, and thought-provoking read.