Inés of My Soul

by Isabel Allende

In the early 1500s a young woman named Inés Suarez decided to
leave Spain for the New World. She did not go to look for fortune
and gold, like so many, or to conquer new lands. She went seeking
freedom. Inés had been left behind by her husband, Juan, while
he traveled to Peru, lured by the promise of riches. According to
custom, she lived like a widow until it became too stifling and she
asked for passage to Peru in order to join Juan. Truthfully,
Inés didn't want to be reunited with her husband, but the
pretense granted her the opportunity to depart.

Isabel Allende's latest novel, INÉS OF MY SOUL, is the story
of this adventure. Inés Suarez was in fact an actual person, a
Spanish woman who was influential (at least behind the scenes) in
the conquest and colonialization of Chile. Allende's historical
fiction imagines Inés's motivations, goals and especially her
relationships with three very different men. It is because of these
associations (although sometimes despite them) that she is able to
garner uncommon power for a woman of her time and place.

Upon arriving in Peru, Inés learns that her husband is dead.
While his ghost haunts her (literally, in true Allende fashion),
she is liberated by his death and begins to create a life for
herself in the New World. She is soon partnered with the dashing
and powerful Pedro de Valdivia, and the two of them share the same
objective: to successfully settle Chile for Spain. Together they
begin to make this dream a reality. This is the story of the birth
of the modern nation of Chile. Inés is unable to separate her
own story (as she tells it to her stepdaughter) from that of the
early days of Spanish settlement.

While her tale is deeply personal, Inés recounts battles with
the indigenous people, how the towns were constructed and what the
Spanish ate and wore --- all in as much, if not more, detail than
how she felt or reacted to the events around her. And therein lies
both the appeal of and problem with INÉS OF MY SOUL. Allende
has skillfully written a character totally enmeshed in her
environment and circumstance, who understands herself most clearly
in relation to the events around her and the context in which she
lives. However, that does not necessarily make for the most
engaging or compelling reading. Inés's accounts of battles and
transactions for which she wasn't even present illustrate the
bloody history of colonialization, but they distance Inés from
the action and thus the reader from Inés.

As she tells the story, Inés is 70 years old and feels that
her death is near. She wants to leave a record of her life but
instead gives mostly an account of the brutal (yet often romantic,
in this telling) conquest of Chile and the attempted subjugation of
the native peoples.

Allende is an accomplished storyteller and her talent and unique
voice are apparent in this latest work. While perhaps not as
successful as her previous novels, INÉS OF MY SOUL is still
appealing --- full of romance and violence, magic and history, and
strong female characters who are in control of their own

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Inés of My Soul
by Isabel Allende

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0061161543
  • ISBN-13: 9780061161544