Thursday, April 3, 2008
Ines of My Soul
I have long been an admirer of Isabel Allende's books and was delighted to find that her latest book, Ines of My Soul is about a famous conquistadora of Chile who in the mid-16th century helps to build the city of Santiago.
The book begins with this fascinating woman's youth in Spain where she marries a man, Juan de Malaga, who leaves her in Spain to pursue riches in the Americas.
After several years in Spain as a "widow of the Americas", Ines negotiates a permit that will allow her to travel across the ocean to join her husband. Upon arriving, she follows information of his whereabouts and travels through the Continent until she learns that her husband died in the battle of Las Salinas. Believing that her husband was pursuing gold--not war--and not wiling to accept the word of others, she travels to Cuzco, Peru, to find out for herself if her husband has died. She learns that all Spanish men were conscripted into battle and that both soldiers and prospecters share a thirst for gold and conquest.
Now a widow in Cuzco, Ines set up a business using her skills as a seamstress and cook and made a living providing for the population. While in Cuzco, she begins a love affair with Pedro de Valdivia and with him sets out to conquer the territory of Chile. The travel from Cuzco through the vast Atacama Desert and hostile territory to the beauiful hills and valleys of the Mapocho river region where the group establishes the city of Santiago took thirteen months.
The court of the Inquisition extends its reach to prosecute Pedro de Valdivia--a married man with a wife in Spain--for his relationship with Ines. The records from his trial provided much of the information that Isabel Allende was able to use in her book.
Ines' perspective from the end of her life, full of the long-term implications of the conquistador's actions, and filtered through the prism of Isabel Allende's wonderful imagination, gives a response to the violent events that are associated with conquest.
The book was enjoyable to me for its historical perspective and geographical information. My favorite Isabel Allende books remain House of Spirits and Eva Luna but I would recommend this one to readers who enjoy history and adventure.