Inés del alma mía is a daring novel, grandiose on any scale. Bold, because the writer has courageously faced one of the bloodiest periods in South American history, without taking sides with either the conquerors or the indigenous people; Great, because it’s a highly researched historical fiction as well as being a love story.
The story is told from the imaginary point of view of Inés Suárez based on what she could have written in her diary at the age of seventy. The existence of the diary is also imaginary. Only a writer of the stature of Isabel Allende would dare to tell this extremely complicated story in flashback and succeed in such a brilliant way.
In her diary, Inés addresses Isabel, her stepdaughter from her last marriage. In the first chapter, Inés Suárez says: “I beg you to have a little patience, Isabel. You will soon see that this messy narration will arrive at the moment when my path crosses with that of Pedro de Valdivia and the epic that I want to tell”. you over begin.”
Inés, a poor seamstress from Plasencia, a town in Spain, arrives in the new world on a ship with her niece to look for her husband Juan de Málaga. In reality, she is determined to escape the poverty and backward thinking of the society she was born into. When she finds out that her husband has died, she tries to get by on her own with her nursing and cleaning skills. When a man who was on the same ship with her tries to attack her, she kills him in self-defense, but the ship’s captain takes the body of the man from her house and discards it, keeping her name clean from her. After this, Inés wants to move to other towns in the new world, partly out of fear of being discovered. It is at this moment that she meets Pedro de Valdivia, the conqueror of Chile, and becomes his lover.
Inés obtains permission from Pissarro saying that she knows dowsing and can find water in the desert; thus, together with Valdivia she travels to Chile, traversing an impossible arid region and facing many hardships to establish the city of Santiago in the Mapocho Valley as a Spanish settlement. They call the new town, “Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura”. The date is February 12, 1541.
In this settlement, cut off from Peru due to distance and abysmal travel conditions, the group faces a terrifying fight against chief Michimalonko’s fierce Mapuche Indians. Agnes’s story continues until 1580 when she writes a memoir of herself at age seventy as a wealthy and successful widow but somewhat boastful and full of pride.
Even if the story is full of battles, cruelty and blood and gore, the central theme is passionate love and companionship between two lovers. The relationship between Pedro and Inés is that of a fairy tale, passionate, loving and full of communication. Even if Pedro changes from an idealistic man to a greedy man over time, his love for Inés survives until his last breath.
Although Isabel Allende, through Inés, neither exalts nor hides the brutality of the conquistadors, she romanticizes the idea of establishing settlements in the new world and the feats of those who went through so much to conquer the continent. A remarkable woman who finds solutions to most of the problems facing the people of the settlement in the new world, Inés is portrayed as modern women’s rights advocates would like to see a hero. How close to the truth this idealization might have been is debatable.
Inés del alma mía is the fifteenth book by Isabel Allende. In this book, too, her narrative style takes over the story, but her delightful narration with the exciting twists and turns in her narration completely grip the reader and make them want not to leave a word unread.
Isabel Allende is a Chilean novelist who was born on August 2, 1942 in Lima, Peru. His books are: The House of the Spirits (1982), La Gorda de Porcelain (1984), Of Love and Shadows (1985), Eva Luna (1987), The Stories of Eva Luna (1989), The Infinite Plan (1991) , Paula (1995, Afrodite (1997), Daughter of Fortune (1999), Portrait in Sepia (2000), The City of Beasts (2002), My Invented Country (2003), The Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004), Bosque de los pygmies (2005), El Zorro (2005), Inés del alma mía (2006) and Two words.
The book is in hard cover and 336 pages with ISBN-10: 0061161535 and ISBN-13: 978-0061161537.
As you would expect from Allende’s wonderful storytelling, “Inés del alma mía” is a brilliant historical epic, full of emotion and suspense.