Eva Luna | Isabel Allende (Book Review)

Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Atria Books (first published 1987)
ISBN 1501117084 (ISBN13: 9781501117084)
Eva Luna is the daughter of a professor’s assistant and a snake-bitten gardener—born poor, orphaned at an early age, and working as a servant. Eva is a naturally gifted and imaginative storyteller who meets people from all stations and walks of life. Though she has no wealth, she trades her stories like currency with people who are kind to her. In this novel, she shares the story of her own life and introduces readers to a diverse and eccentric cast of characters including the Lebanese émigré who befriends her and takes her in; her unfortunate godmother, whose brain is addled by rum and who believes in all the Catholic saints and a few of her own invention; a street urchin who grows into a petty criminal and, later, a leader in the guerrilla struggle; a celebrated transsexual entertainer who instructs her in the ways of the adult world; and a young refugee whose flight from postwar Europe will prove crucial to Eva’s fate.
I think I’ve fallen squarely in the middle with this book. I didn’t love and I didn’t hate it but I just sort of liked it. There’s no doubt that Isabel Allende is incredibly talented and a gifted storyteller but I think sometimes this book fell a little flat. It took me ages to read. Partly because the writing is so rich and it’s not one you can just fly through and partly because I would find that my mind would start to wander while reading it.

Eva Luna if nothing else has a fascinating life from her conception to the moment she’s born and everything that happens to her after. Everything that happens to her is important and shapes where she ends up later on but at the same time I felt like too much of the beginning of the book was just character introductions and development. It didn’t feel like it progressed the story though other than to get Eva from point A to point B.

It was a lot of this happened and then Eva went here and then this happened after that and Eva had to go there. It all comes around in the end but it just too long to get there. If you compare it to Rolf Carle, the other character’s story we see, who was progressed a lot quicker. You know though that their story’s are obviously going to intertwine at some point but for my money it took way too long to get there. Though I guess sometimes that’s true to life. Sometimes it just takes too long to get where you’re going.

The characters Eva Luna meets are definitely interesting and the events that take place in the book are interesting but that’s sort of it. It just didn’t feel like the story it self held up to the way Allende writes. Eva Luna herself often comes off as a bit too perfect even in face of all the hardships she’s been through she’s just sort of happy about everything and it sort of made me roll my eyes. Maybe it should have made me feel the opposite but even as Eva gets older I never really felt it. Most of the book just always felt like it was being told from the POV of a 15 year old girl. I guess it just felt like she lacked a lot of development even though she had been through so much.

I have an ever growing list of books I recommend to people who ask but I don’t know that this one will end up on it. If you’re an Allende fan or you’re just really interested in her writing it would be worth your while otherwise I feel like it’s just not that worth it.

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