Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Invented Country (Isabel Allende) (7.0/10.0)

It's about time we at The Literate Man expand our minds and broaden our horizons to include more talented female authors. One of our favorites is Isabel Allende. She has a gift for storytelling and is one of literature's living treasures.

If you've ever read any of her books you'll begin to notice that most of them cover very similar territory, and you might be forgiven for thinking that all of them sort of bleed into a single, larger narrative. My Invented Country (Mi PaĆ­s Inventado, if you're looking for the original) is no different in this regard. If you're looking for fresh ideas from Allende's cannon you won't find them here. But if you're looking for a light read that will put a smile on your face and fill your brain with snippets of knowledge about her birth country of Chile, this book will more than suffice.

Because The Literate Man's global headquarters are located in Miami--the capital of Latin America and fertile ground for Chilean expats (hola muchachos!)--we at The Literate Man have been to known run in certain Chilean circles. So I have to admit that my particular interest in My Invented Country wasn't of a purely literary bent, but rather a bit of personal research to see what makes our Chilean friends tick.

Promising to "evoke the magnificent landscape of her country," and "the enchanting idiosyncrasies of the Chilean people," I was hooked as soon as I read the back cover. Admittedly, my knowledge of this most southern of South American countries is limited to the information I gather from expat friends and a reporter friend in Santiago who writes about professional basketball there. So it was with great interest and great pleasure that I read this book.

Allende, in a way that perhaps only she can, weaves a personal, cultural, political, historical (and any other descriptive modifier ending in `-al' that you can think of), account of a little-known country rich in narrative. And with her gifted and quirky eye for the details that lay just under the surface this is a great Idiots Guide to Chile.

So whether you're looking to learn more about the rich and turbulent history of Chile from the Spanish colonial conquest to post-Pinochet democracy, the mouth watering cuisine of one the world's major fisheries, the craziness of Allende's mythic family, or you if you'd simply like to partake of her talent as a storyteller, you'll find all that and more in My Invented Country.

It's probably as close as you can get to visiting Chile without leaving the comfort of your favorite reading chair.

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