Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Live Life Like a Novel

Source: Penguin books

Just finished my latest penguin classic – Eva Luna by Isabel Allende and I liked it - A LOT.

Hard to easily say what this book is about – relationships, culture, class clashes, political unrest, humanity, spiritualism – you can take from it what you wish.

Eva Luna can be categorised under magical realism of the Latin American style. I have a penchant for magical realism as it seems to lend itself to sublime language and puts into words things we sometimes just 'feel' such as a house having an uncomfortable vibe is actually grieving and seeping of a sinful act that somehow has become part of the bricks and mortar. Allende, unlike her counterpart Marques has been able to use magical realism without actually confusing the s***t out of the reader (if you have read 100 Years of Solitude you know what I'm talking about – yes Marques, I know you are making a point about time being circular not liner, but making the reader constantly flicking back to the family tree page is just plain annoying). Furthermore, Allende’s use of the spiritual world comes from a believable place, instead of the just out there 'huh' kind of scenes that magical realism can sometimes bring.

Unfortunately, Allende falls into the major trap that also annoys me with her counterpart Marques – the inappropriate incestuous relations between family members in these books. Why is it so common place for father/daughter, cousin/cousin and aunty/nephews enjoying sexual acts to occur in these books? It is always off putting and though I might sound like a prude, does turn me off otherwise great stories... anyway, back to Eva Luna (whose name means Life and Moon – but you know that so I just sound like a toffee know-it-all year six kid).

It is a story about Eva, a girl with a talent for storytelling and the teller of this novel. We follow her from birth to her late twenties as her life weaves wonderful tales of colourful characters living in a restless South American country trying to find itself. Eva tells tales of love, self-worth and ailments of the human heart.

Artist's impression of Eva source:
One thing I really love about Eva is her flavour of girl power born out of strong matriarchal relationships and knowing “life is a dog fight, you just have to keep fighting.” This is particularly outplayed with her encounters with men. Take this one as an example of power plays between the sexes, where Eva has been asked out to dinner by a much feared military leader:

...he said, he thought I had an original mind - although he had not heard more than four sentences from me; he had dominated the conversation.
“I'm the one who's grateful, Colonel. I've never been here before - it's very elegant.”
It doesn't have to be the last time Eva. Can we see each other next week?”
“Well , to get to know each other better...”
“Do you want to go to bed with me, Colonel?”
He dropped his fork, and for nearly a minute stared at his plate.
“That is a crude question and it deserves a crude answer,” he replied finally. “Yes that's what I want. Do you accept?”
“No, thank you very much. Sex without love makes me melancholy”.
“I didn't say love is excluded.”
“And your wife?”
“Let's be clear on this point. My wife has nothing to do with this conversation and we will not mention her again. I'd rather talk about us. I'm not the one who should say it, but I can make you happy if you'll let me.”
“Let's not beat about the bush, Colonial. You're a powerful man. You can do whatever you choose, and usually do – isn't that so?”
“You're mistaken. In my position I have certain responsibilities and duties. I carry them out on behalf of the nation. I am a soldier, I do not abuse my privileges, especially in personal matters. I intend to seduce you, not coerce you. I am sure I will succeed, because we're attracted to each other. I'll make you change your mind … and you may find yourself falling in love with me.”
“I'm sorry, but I doubt that.”
“Prepare your defenses Eva, because I'm not going to give you a minute's peace until you accept me.” He smiled.
“If that's your intention, let's not waste each other's time. I don't want to argue with you, because that could be dangerous for me. Let's go. Well get this over with tonight, and then you'll leave me alone.”
The Colonel leapt to his feet, his face fiery red. Two waiters rushed toward him, and people at neighboring tables turned to stare. He sat down stiffly, breathing rapidly, apparently composing his thoughts.
“I don't know what kind of woman you are,” he said finally. His voice was icy. I could hear how angry he was. “Under normal circumstances, I would accept your challenge and we would immediately go somewhere private. But I've decided to go about this in a different way. I won't beg you. I am sure you will come to me, and if you are lucky my proposition will still stand. Call me when you want to see me,” Rodriguez said curtly, handing me a card bearing the national coat of arms and beneath it his name printed in italic.

Read Eva Luna:
  • to find out what happens after this encounter
  • if you appreciate the beauty in words
  • if you are like the main character and myself : “I also try to live my life as I would like it … like a novel.”


  1. Beautiful, eloquent post M. Sounds like an interesting read. Might give magic realism another go as like you I struggled with Marques. xx Rose/

  2. I 100% agree about Marques! But might give this one a go? The excerpt you gave makes me like Eva Luna already and her wit and forthrightness. I particularly love this line "No, thank you very much. Sex without love makes me melancholy”.
    I can totally relate haha

  3. Hey Girlies,
    Yeah, give it a go. I must admit I did put this book down for a week or so because one part was bit heavy going/slow, but I'm glad I continued on.

  4. Beautiful! Miss Luna has inspired me to live my life like a novel. And so I am about to make what I'm sure will be one of the grandest gestures in my lifetime. Let's hope that like a novel it works out :)