Saturday, January 31, 2009

"My Invented Country" Isabel Allende



Yesterday was a day off for me. The kids were having a PD Day (yes, yet another one) and when the kids don't have to go to school, I don't have to drive them there. Although I actually prefer to work the entire week, I viewed yesterday as a particularly delicious day off. I had time to get some things done that I haven't been able to get to this past week, I had a little time for housework, and a little time to relax. Ahhhhh...there's nothing quite like an extra day off. In the afternoon while Jarek was napping I took a nice relaxing bath and finally finished reading Isabel Allende's "My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile." I had a hard time getting into the book. I wouldn't say that I didn't like it, I would just say that it jumped around so much that I couldn't figure out what exactly was going on. Allow me to explain.

Isabel Allende wasn't born in Chile, but was raised there after her father left her mother with three young children to bring up. Allende's mother moved back into her childhood home in Chile, and the four of them lived with Allende's grandmother and grandfather. Allende and her first husband fled from Chile during a time of intense political discourse, and because she never returned for good she felt as if she didn't quite belong anywhere; America, where she settled with her second husband or Chile, where she spend many of her formative years. This book is her attempt to come to terms with her multi-country life and a chance to re-live her years in Chile. The book itself was very interesting, enlightening readers about Chile's history and politics, as well as telling us about Chilean men and women, their legendary fish, and their delicate wines.

Although learning more about a country that I don't know very much about was interesting, I found that the book didn't quite gel together for me as I read, and I found myself losing interest from time to time. I would be reading about Allende's ancestors, and on the next page I would be reading about Chile's politics. It was, at times, a little confusing. Allende is aware of this problem, though, and she explains it herself on page 141:

"But, I've gone way off on a tangent, and I need to pick up the main thread of this account, if there is any thread in all this meandering. But that's how nostalgia is: a slow dance in a large circle. Memories don't organize themselves chronologically, they're like smoke, changing, ephemeral, and if they're not written down they fade into oblivion."

Aside from this small problem, I did learn a lot about Chile and found the book to have a very interesting subject. If you're willing to read a book that does meander a little, this is a great way to learn about an interesting country with a rich history. You can find out more about this book on Harper-Collins' website here. This is also my first entry into the Warm Up For Winter Reading Challenge.

Up Next: I've been reading quite the variety of books lately (the one New Year's Resolution that I've definitely kept so far!) but I'm ready to read something fictional now. I think that I will start Larry Doyle's "I Love You, Beth Cooper" as I've heard that it's a funny book. I would like to read something light-hearted in order to pass these cold winter days (will the winter ever end???).

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