Critical Insights: Isabel Allende

Critical Insights Series

The series focuses on an individual author's entire body of work, a single work of literature, or a literary theme.

At a Glance
  • 1 Volume; 300 Pages
  • 10-14 essays offering Current Critical Analysis by Top Literary Scholars
  • Introductory Essay by the Editor
  • Chronology of Author's Life
  • Complete List of Author's Works
  • Publication Dates of Works
  • Detailed Bio of the Editor
  • General Bibliography
  • General Subject Index
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Editor: John Rodden, University of Texas at Austin
October 2010 · 1 volume · 384 pages · 6"x9"

Includes Online Database with Print Purchase
ISBN: 978-1-58765-699-6
# of Pages: 384
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $105
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e-ISBN: 978-1-58765-700-9
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In-depth critical discussions of her life and works - Plus complimentary, unlimited online access to the full content of this great literary reference.

The border between fact and fiction has always been a porous one for Isabel Allende. Her acclaimed first novel, The House of the Spirits, began as a letter to her dying grandfather yet is filled with ghosts and green-haired and clairvoyant women; her memoir Paula, though ostensibly nonfiction, is a moving and highly imaginative account of her family history and the illness and death of her daughter, Paula. Even in the many interviews she has given, Allende has embellished the details of her life to captivate and charm her readers. She has more than succeeded. Around the world, readers have flocked to both her fiction and her nonfiction, making her one of the best-selling women novelists in the world today. Edited and with an introduction by John Rodden, a celebrated Allende scholar, this volume in the Critical Insights series brings together a variety of essays on this Chilean Scheherazade. Rodden's introduction assesses the phases of Allende's career and her growth as a writer, and Michael Wood, writing on behalf of The Paris Review, considers Allende's relation to magical realism. Amanda Hopkinson, in turn, provides a comprehensive biography of Allende and a measured examination of how her life has informed her work.

For students encountering Allende for the first time, four introductory essays provide a valuable framework for studying her in greater depth. Beth E. Jörgenson surveys the range of critical opinions and the major strands of critical thought on Allende's work, and Charles Rossman's close reading of The House of the Spirits analyzes in depth the novel's setting, characters, and plot. María Roof compares Allende's use of the family saga novel to Maryse Condé's, and Carrie Sheffield describes the context in which Allende wrote her first and most popular novel, The House of the Spirits.

Next, a collection of essays on key works and subjects deepens readers' understanding of Allende. The House of the Spirits is treated by Sara E. Cooper, who uses family systems theory to explicate the novel's major themes, and Barbara Foley Buedel considers the magical realist aspects of Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna. Linda S. Maier and Cherie Meacham both explore Paula, with Maier focusing on how the memoir acted as a catharsis for Allende and Meacham relating the work to The House of the Spirits.

Allende's prequels to The House of the SpiritsDaughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia—are then taken up by John Rodden and Nadia Avendaño. Rodden examines the autobiographical facets of both novels while Avendaño considers how Allende breaks down gender barriers in Daughter of Fortune. Linda Gould Levine extends Avendaño's insights with a broad study of how Allende has transgressed boundaries of race, class, gender, and nationality throughout her career. Vincent Kling seeks to overturn the common perception of Allende as little more than a popular novelist by revealing how she continually draws on myth, archetype, and paradox to lend depth and nuance to her writing.

A quartet of essays then treat a few of Allende's lesser known works. Philip Swanson examines Zorro, while Luz María Umpierre analyzes one of the short stories, "Two Words." Don Latham discusses the magical realist facets of Allende's young adult novels, and John Rodden considers Allende's self-presentation in her interviews.

Rounding out the volume are a chronology of Allende's life and a list of her principal publications as well as a bibliography for readers seeking to study this fascinating author in greater depth.

Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:

A chronology of the author's life
A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
A general bibliography
A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
Notes on the individual chapter authors
A subject index