Review of Historical Fiction Novel INÉS OF MY SOUL by Isabel Allende

October 24, 2018 |  Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Review of Historical Fiction Novel INÉS OF MY SOUL by Isabel Allende

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Inés of My Soul was one of Isabel Allende’s first steps away from her carefully cultivated craft of magical realism, a form of story telling that was created by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, and into the realm of historical fiction. A stark difference from her other novels, Inés of my Soul has failed to gain the recognition of her earlier works such as House of the Spirits and her memoir Paula. The novel follows the linear history of a real female conquistador named Inés Suárez during the 1500s, who aided her lover and Spanish missionary of Pedro de Valdivia during the Conquest of Chile. Though the novel stays relatively accurate to the timeline of Suárez, this book is not meant to be a full retelling of the country’s history by any means. Isabel Allende is not a historian, and her work is not pretend to hold the academic substance of a historical monograph. The book’s historical backdrop is merely to set a stage for what was supposed to be a story of love and triumph, and ended up adhering to the common female archetype that exists in romance novels.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The story of Inés Suárze the historical figure is an interesting one, and it is understandable as to why an author would take interest in her story enough to recreate the tale with added passion and peril. The story begins as an elderly Suárez recounts her youth in her final years of life. The plot is easily broken up into the three different men that she was involved with during her lifetime and the consequences it led to. The beginning of Suárez’s tale starts with her deadbeat husband Juan de Málaga who leaves her to go to the New World. She follows after him only to discover that he had died in fighting before reaching Peru as he had hoped. This then shifts the reader into the second and the largest portion of the book, which is dedicated to her time as Pedro de Valdivia’s mistress. It is here that her involvement in the Spanish Conquest of Chile and the fight against the indigenous Mapuches is brought to light. Through Suárez’s recollection of her affairs in Chile, Allende does allow glimpses into the horrible acts of the Spanish against the indigenous Chileans through the eyes and actions of Suárez. However, it is merely used as a plot device to further develop her love story with de Valdivia. Her last relationship was with her husband Rodrigo de Quiroga, with whom she led a quiet life until her death in 1580. However, Allende’s portrayal of Inés can sometimes undermine her historical importance and cause her to be viewed as the standard female archetype who uses her feminine ways to persuade her lovers and as a means justify her fickleness as opposed to one of the first women to play an active role in Spanish military conquest and become a longstanding symbol of woman standing up to authority in Chile.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Thought labeled as historical fiction, this novel is predominantly a romantic fiction over any other potential labels. Historical fiction novels more often than not care more about writing a compelling story than adhering to standards of academic historical writing. This is rightfully so, as the intended audiences vary greatly. With this in mind, Allende should be applauded for her extensive research and adherence to timeline. Within the book itself she provides a bibliography of sources from which she based the events in the novel. The emphasis of this novel was not meant to be the history of Inés Suárez and the Conquest of Chile by the Spanish, but on the personal romantic life of Inés Suárez. Of course with historical fiction, events are dramatized or forgotten in order to appeal to a wide audience and abide by length that has been established by the publisher. However, by removing the emphasis of Inés Suárez as a historically important woman and instead focusing on Inés Suárez as a romantic figure, the novel lacks aspects that would have not only bolstered the work’s historical legitimacy but also the plotline itself.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 As one of her first ventures into the realm of historical fiction, Isabel Allende uses Inés Suárez’s story and importance as a historical figure to set the tone for what was meant to be an action packed romance novel. The timeline presented within the novel does stick closely to the one of the real Inés Suárez, and the few represented major events that occur in the novel are also in accordance to what historians believe to have happened during the Spanish Conquest of Chile. Allende takes artistic liberty in portraying Suárez’s personal love life, and thus instead makes that the center of this work. It is clear that the intent of this novel was not to be a source of academic literature on the life of Inés Suárez and the Conquest of Chile, but to take an exciting historical narrative and apply popular romantic novel tropes in order to appeal to a broad audience.


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