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Old 03-18-2019, 03:13 AM   #1
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Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

'Eva Luna is the daughter of a professor’s assistant and a snake-bitten gardener—born poor, orphaned at an early age, and working as a servant. Eva is a naturally gifted and imaginative storyteller who meets people from all stations and walks of life. Though she has no wealth, she trades her stories like currency with people who are kind to her. In this novel, she shares the story of her own life and introduces readers to a diverse and eccentric cast of characters including the Lebanese émigré who befriends her and takes her in; her unfortunate godmother, whose brain is addled by rum and who believes in all the Catholic saints and a few of her own invention; a street urchin who grows into a petty criminal and, later, a leader in the guerrilla struggle; a celebrated transsexual entertainer who instructs her in the ways of the adult world; and a young refugee whose flight from postwar Europe will prove crucial to Eva's fate.

As Eva tells her story, Isabel Allende conjures up a whole complex South American nation—the rich, the poor, the simple, and the sophisticated—in a novel replete with character and incident, with drama and comedy and history, with battles and passions, rebellions and reunions, a novel that celebrates the power of imagination to create a better world.'


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Anyone can discuss any part or aspect of it at any time, although a softly recommended discussion timeframe is given below as an encouragement to keep those reading on a more similar timeline and perhaps foster deeper discussion.

-The first half by the 25th of March
-The second half by the 10th of April


This is the MR Literary Club selection for March 2019. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!


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Old 03-18-2019, 03:40 AM   #2
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It took me a few days to start the thread but I've already begun the book and am on Chapter 3 right now.

I was planning on reading the ebook, but as usual before I read a book I check Audible to see the options and lo and behold there's a brand new audiobook version of Eva Luna released the exact day we chose the book for our selection! What are the odds? It seems to be the first English-language audio version of it ever released too. So I was lured in because of that and am listening to the audiobook. It actually has two narrators, a female and a male (Cynthia Farrell, Timothy Andrés Pabon) but both are really similar in quality- they speak very generically and without passion, but the voices for characters are very good.

Also, it seems there is another book called The Stories of Eva Luna that is not the same book (it seems to be a supplementary book released a year later).
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Old 03-20-2019, 01:12 AM   #3
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I’ve started reading through Chapter 3 as well. The cast of characters is certainly eccentric. I like the writing so far.

I am reading the ebook through Scribd. I didn’t realize the audiobook was just released. That is an odd coincidence! It seems that multiple narrators is becoming more common for audiobooks.
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Old 03-20-2019, 02:08 AM   #4
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Yes, it does. The last one I listened to with a male and female narrator was Gone Girl which seems to have been done for the same reason as for Eva Luna, and it seems to work well for both. Dune had many narrators but I didn't like that; there were different narrators for different character voices but I just didn't think it worked well; the radio play format just didn't gel with an unabridged audiobook like I thought it might, at least not on that one.
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Old 03-23-2019, 05:30 PM   #5
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Most of the books I have been listening to have had multiple female narrators. I did not like the male/female pairing in Manhattan Beach. It switched too often sometimes only for a paragraph or so, and the two voices did not complement each other so it was very jarring. However, I can see how it may work in this scenario by switching between the characters of Eva and Rolf for long passages.

I am making good progress on the book this month. The writing has a sort of flowery and sing-song quality to it, but so far it's not too annoying. I think that may be a characteristic of Latin American books like this one, especially with a magical realism element. I'm still not quite sure where the book is headed. It seems to be layered with many stories within stories.

I think it is interesting that both Eva and Rolf were loved but abandoned by their mothers (for lack of a better word). They are both getting lessons in the school of hard knocks in early adolescence. They both want to keep their mothers "alive" in memory: Eva by remembering her dead mother's stories and Rolf by writing stories and taking photos to send in letters to his mother in his homeland.

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Old 03-25-2019, 01:08 AM   #6
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I started this book last night and am liking it so far - just up to starting Chapter 2 though.

I cannot comment on how accurate the translation is but am finding it particularly easy to read, so far - both the flow and punctuation. So I checked out the translator, seems she has had plenty of practice with other books.
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Old 03-25-2019, 01:57 AM   #7
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I am at the halfway mark. It is still introducing lots of different characters. La Señora provides new meaning to innovative entrepreneur. The political theme is an undercurrent but not really directly addressed.
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Old 03-27-2019, 02:47 AM   #8
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I'm over the halfway point. I agree with both of you that the book has a lilting flow to it. I'm enjoying it and it definitely fits the month's topic perfectly, and in more ways than one.
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:42 PM   #9
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This book is bringing up a lot of thoughts of similarities to other books and films.

The first is 100 Years of Solitude which I read a long time ago. It is more of a fantasy or 'magical' of magical realism, but I still feel there's a lot of similarities- many characters and storylines of eccentric happenings in a quasi-fictitious land mixed with the violence and history of South America. I wouldn't be surprised if García Márquez and in particular this book is an inspiration for Allende.

The second is one of our previous selections, Love in the Time of Cholera and also by García Márquez. That book is a bit more realistic than 100 Years and captures the story of a more focused group of main characters, in particular a woman and two men who love her, which in a very general sense is similar to the main outline of Eva Luna.

The third is another selection of the lit club, this one the more recent Green Mansions. While the country of Eva Luna is imaginary and Allende is Chilean, I couldn't help but think the country of the book has a lot of similarities to Venezuela, including the oil riches. The indigenous tribes in Eva Luna remind me of the ones in Green Mansions and regardless I think it's very interesting we've had two selections in the last 12 months that have indigenous South American tribes as a focal point. I'm not sure if William Henry Hudson is an inspiration for Allende but I could see it, especially with Eva's mother's chimerical mysteriousness having some similarities to Rima from Green Mansions.

The fourth is an older film, a masterpiece called Aguirre, Wrath of God. This film deals with an expedition to find the city of gold in the Amazon in the 16th century. While the tone and story are very different from Eva Luna, much of the film takes place on the river, reminding me of Consuela's origin story in Eva Luna.

The fifth is a recent film, Roma. It's a fantastic film, and while it is Mexican and not South American, I was struck by many of the similarities in story. It concerns an indigenous woman who works as a maid in the mid-20th century and becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and also deals with riots, governmental uneasiness and protests of the time, and her love interest becomes involved in the violent protesting group.

The sixth is another lit club selection, One Thousand and One Nights. First of all, the book mentions it itself which is a level of Inception when the lit club selection we're reading mentions a previous lit club selection. But I had thought of the similarity before the book mentioned it, with the connection of the characters from the Middle East and the structure of many various characters and storylines all tied together to the main female protagonist storyteller in Eva Luna. It makes me wonder if that was one of Allende's inspirations for Eva Luna.

Edit- There is one more also. I knew I had thought of another while reading but couldn't remember it while writing the post, and of course soon after actually posting it came to me. It is Kiss of the Spider Woman. I saw the film, but it is based on a novel. It deals with two prisoners in an Argentine prison, one a sympathetic transgender woman and another a political prisoner that is part of a revolutionary group trying to overthrow the government. While that story is otherwise quite different, it's unusual similarities are striking in that Eva Luna also has a transgender character who is thrown in a prison and a large subplot concerns a revolutionary group and political prisoners, and there are other similarities but it would concern spoilers for Kiss of the Spider Woman. I wouldn't be surprised if the inspiration for the characters of Huberto Naranjo and Melicio/Mimi owe something to Kiss of the Spider Woman.

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Old 04-22-2019, 08:49 PM   #10
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I finished this book around 4 weeks ago and as I have been away I have not been able to comment easily since. Also, I have read a number of other books since my recollection of the details of it have been muddied.

But I did enjoy it and am pleased that I read it. A story about a story teller and stories within. I thought the nice flowing prose in the early part of the book became a bit lumpier later on.

I also wondered if the author was unsure how to wind up the story line as it seemed, to me, a bit straggly and compressed at the end. But I find that I feel that way quite often when reading novels.
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Old 04-23-2019, 01:35 AM   #11
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I also wondered if the author was unsure how to wind up the story line as it seemed, to me, a bit straggly and compressed at the end. But I find that I feel that way quite often when reading novels.
I'm also glad that we read this book. I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. I abandoned 100 Years of Solitude about halfway through so I was a little fearful that the experience would be similar.

I made the comment earlier that I wasn't sure where the book was headed and it seemed to be stories within stories. Then it became clear that my impression was what I think the author wanted the reader to feel when Aravena gives Eva the contract and says:

Quote:
As he explained without preliminaries, the script did not even remotely fit the usual patterns; in fact, the whole thing was a jumble of bizarre characters and unrealistic anecdotes; it lacked true romance; the protagonists were neither good-looking nor rich; it was almost impossible to follow the train of events; the audience would be totally lost. In sum it was a mess and no one with an ounce of sense would run the risk of producing it, but he was going to do it because he could not resist the temptation to scandalize the country with such rubbish- and because Mimi had asked him to.

"Keep writing, Eva. I'm curious about how you're going to end such a mishmash," he said as he showed me to the door.
And of course the reader is wondering too how it's going to end! I do agree with you that the book felt compressed at the end. I was surprised that it took so long for Eva and Rolf's stories to connect. Like somewhere around 75% maybe? I thought that romantic line would occur much sooner. I think part of the issue was how to make the mishmash of story lines all work out with happy endings so that made it a "bit lumpier" and rushed.

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Old 05-18-2019, 01:14 PM   #12
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I'm also glad that we read this book. I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. I abandoned 100 Years of Solitude about halfway through so I was a little fearful that the experience would be similar.
I liked 100 Years of Solitude but I can see where your frustrations might've been with it. At least, I can guess it might have something to do with its haphazard plotting? I think you also read his Love in the Time of Cholera when it was a book club selection; if so did you like that one better? (it's been a long time and I can't remember anything of what was in that thread, heh)

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And of course the reader is wondering too how it's going to end! I do agree with you that the book felt compressed at the end. I was surprised that it took so long for Eva and Rolf's stories to connect. Like somewhere around 75% maybe? I thought that romantic line would occur much sooner.
I agree; I was surprised at how long it took for them to properly connect storylines. Perhaps if they were both equally co-protagonists, but the book obviously makes Eva THE protagonist with Rolf as more of a secondary protagonist, so Rolf's whole story seems almost only in service of the 'main' story happening to Eva, with which keeping the stories apart so long left his thread feeling as if it were dangling.

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I also wondered if the author was unsure how to wind up the story line as it seemed, to me, a bit straggly and compressed at the end. But I find that I feel that way quite often when reading novels.
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I think part of the issue was how to make the mishmash of story lines all work out with happy endings so that made it a "bit lumpier" and rushed.
Well, what with the timing of tomorrow being the series finale, this makes me think of the epic Game of Thrones television show. It was an excellent series when it still had books to adapt from. The last few seasons it passed the written books (which I've also read all of) and even though the author Martin gave the showrunners a general outline of what he plans to happen in the final unpublished books, the showrunners are having a terrible time wrapping things up properly. The rumour is that Martin is also having a terrible time finishing the last few books despite already knowing the general beats he wants to hit because everything is so sprawling in his story. Anyway, the showrunners of the television series are finishing up in a way that you both perfectly already described- straggly, compressed, lumpy and rushed.

What this has to do with Eva Luna, I'm not so sure.

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Old 05-26-2019, 11:49 PM   #13
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Oops - sorry, my mistake. I keep getting Love in the Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude mixed up! I did not finish the one that the Lit Club read many years ago.

I've been thinking about this book some more. I just went back and re-read the first line: "My name is Eva, which means "life," according to a book of names my mother consulted." It is significant that the title of the book is simply Eva Luna, her name, which is symbolic of life and light. One has to assume that Allende was very intentional in selecting this name and title. Wikipedia had the following statement about a key theme in this book. It reminded me that I had read somewhere that many of Allende's books were based on her own experiences, often focused on women, and weaving myth and realism together. In this case, she makes Eva Luna the weaver of stories as the main protagonist.

From Wikipedia:
Quote:
Allende critiques on the gender imbalance that was and still is present in most Latin American countries. Generally, women were regarded as objects, entities that were subjugated in a male hegemony. Through the protagonist Eva, Allende has found a character that reflects on all the characteristics that all women trying to survive in the harsh conditions of Latin America, should embody. Eva's name is itself symbolic. Luna is Spanish for "moon" – a symbol of the matriarchal power that women possess. In many ways the character Eva reflects Allende herself and the struggle that she went through after her father's cousin, Salvador Allende, was overthrown as Chilean President on September 11, 1973
One of the things that I thought was interesting was that she wasn't really writing about the social/political upheaval of a specific country's history but more of a general experience in Latin America for that time period.
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Old 05-26-2019, 11:56 PM   #14
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Well, what with the timing of tomorrow being the series finale, this makes me think of the epic Game of Thrones television show. It was an excellent series when it still had books to adapt from. The last few seasons it passed the written books (which I've also read all of) and even though the author Martin gave the showrunners a general outline of what he plans to happen in the final unpublished books, the showrunners are having a terrible time wrapping things up properly. The rumour is that Martin is also having a terrible time finishing the last few books despite already knowing the general beats he wants to hit because everything is so sprawling in his story. Anyway, the showrunners of the television series are finishing up in a way that you both perfectly already described- straggly, compressed, lumpy and rushed.

What this has to do with Eva Luna, I'm not so sure.
What a hilarious parallel of GoT to Eva Luna. So true! With fewer happy endings though in GoT!
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