On Love, Revolution, and Storytelling: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

“She sowed in my mind the idea that reality is not only what we see on the surface; it has a magical dimension as well and, if we so desire, it is legitimate to enhance it and color it to make our journey through life less trying.”
Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

In one of her most famous books, Allende tells the story of Eva Luna, a free-spirited orphan girl with a knack for storytelling, and Rolf Carle, a young man who travels from Europe to South America to escape the ghosts of his terrible past.

“My name is Eva, which means ‘life,’ according to a book of names my mother consulted. I was born in the back room of a shadowy house, and grew up amidst ancient furniture, books in Latin, and human mummies, but none of those things made me melancholy, because I came into the world with a breath of the jungle in my memory.”

Eva Luna is conceived on what is supposed to be her father’s deathbed. She goes from one patron to another and weaves a fraught narrative of memorable characters such as abuela Elvira whose most precious possession is her coffin, a Yugoslavian woman and her life-like clay statues, and the lovable Riad Halabi and his harelip.

Rolf Carle is shipped off by his mother to South America to heal from his childhood miseries. He turns many a woman’s head. He fancies his cousins. He pretends to be cold and indifferent while melting in his own internal stream of lava. Eventually, Rolf and Eva’s stories intertwine.

“January 8 has been a lucky day for me. I have started all my books on that day, and all of them have been well received by the readers. I write eight to ten hours a day until I have a first draft, then I can relax a little. I am very disciplined. I write in silence and solitude. I light a candle to call inspiration and the muses, and I surround myself with pictures of the people I love, dead and alive. ”

Throughout the novel, Eva tells exciting stories of love and adventure. Like Scheherazade, she uses stories as a currency and weaves her listeners into her plot. On another level, this is a wonderful book about becoming a writer, finding one’s own voice, and learning how to draw inspiration from one’s own experience to create works of absolute magic.

“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”

It’s an exciting tale of love, adventure, writing, and revolution set against the backdrop of South American magical realism in the vein of Borges and Márquez. A truly wonderful read!

© 2020 Erna Grcic 

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