Daughter of Fortune: A Novel Info

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Orphaned at birth, Eliza Sommers is raised in the British
colony of Valparaíso, Chile, by the well-intentioned Victorian
spinster Miss Rose and her more rigid brother Jeremy. Just as she meets
and falls in love with the wildly inappropriate Joaquín Andieta, a
lowly clerk who works for Jeremy, gold is discovered in the hills of
northern California. By 1849, Chileans of every stripe have fallen prey
to feverish dreams of wealth. Joaquín takes off for San Francisco
to seek his fortune, and Eliza, pregnant with his child, decides to
follow him.

So begins Isabel Allende's enchanting new novel,
Daughter of Fortune, her most ambitious work of fiction yet. As
we follow her spirited heroine on a perilous journey north in the hold
of a ship to the rough-and-tumble world of San Francisco and northern
California, we enter a world whose newly arrived inhabitants are driven
mad by gold fever. A society of single men and prostitutes among whom
Eliza moves--with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese
doctor Tao Chien--California opens the door to a new life of freedom and
independence for the young Chilean. Her search for the elusive
Joaquín gradually turns into another kind of journey that
transforms her over time, and what began as a search for love ends up as
the conquest of personal freedom. By the time she finally hears news of
him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.

Daughter
of Fortune
is a sweeping portrait of an era, a story rich in
character, history, violence, and compassion. In Eliza, Allende has
created one of her most appealing heroines, an adventurous,
independent-minded, and highly unconventional young woman who has the
courage to reinvent herself and to create her own destiny in a new
country. A marvel of storytelling, Daughter of Fortune confirms
once again Isabel Allende's extraordinary gift for fiction and her
place as one of the world's leading writers.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Daughter of Fortune: A Novel:

5

Mar 29, 2016

According to Isabel Allende, the timeless tale she weaves in House of the Spirits begins with the story of Eliza Sommers in Daughter of Fortune. Eliza Sommers is found in a basket as a newborn baby at the Valparaiso, Chile home of Jeremy and Rose Sommers (brother and sister). Rose is only 20 years old but resigned to spinsterhood and immediately feels compassion for the child, takes her in, and decides to raise her like a daughter, much to the admonition of her brother.

We fast forward our tale According to Isabel Allende, the timeless tale she weaves in House of the Spirits begins with the story of Eliza Sommers in Daughter of Fortune. Eliza Sommers is found in a basket as a newborn baby at the Valparaiso, Chile home of Jeremy and Rose Sommers (brother and sister). Rose is only 20 years old but resigned to spinsterhood and immediately feels compassion for the child, takes her in, and decides to raise her like a daughter, much to the admonition of her brother.

We fast forward our tale 16 years. Rose has brought up Eliza to be a young lady worthy of English aristocracy. Eliza has also spent time in the presence of the Del Valle family of Chilean upper class who will play a role in the entire trilogy. Yet, she feels stifled in this life others have chosen for her, so when she encounters Joaquin Andieta for the first time, she is instantly smitten. Andieta is a bastard child with no future in Chile and succumbs to gold fever, leaving for California. He leaves Eliza pregnant, so she decides to take all the jewels meant for her trousseau and runs away from home, determined to find her lover.

The second half of the novel takes place in California in Eliza's futile attempt to find Andieta. While a stowaway on a ship, she miscarries and is nursed back to health by a Chinese doctor named Tao Chi'en, who later becomes her life companion. Tao determines that Eliza should dress like a Chinese boy so as not to be discovered, thus beginning their life in America.

I enjoyed the historical aspects of life during the California gold rush. Still primarily a wild west inhabited by native Americans, California attracts people from all over the world in search of fortune: Chinese, Russians, Australians, Chileans, Peruvians, Mexicans, as well as people from the eastern half of the United States. Because the majority of gold seekers were men, prostitutes struck it rich as well. Eliza posing as a male piano player joins a traveling prostitution troop while Tao makes a name for himself as a healer in Chinatown in San Francisco.

While the fortune alluded to in the title could refer to gold, it could also mean the American Dream. During the 1850s, Tao faced a bleak future in China as a fourth son, yet emerges in California as a respected member of society. Eliza would have been subservient to a husband in Chile, but works as Tao's assistant and harbors a dream of opening a French patisserie. Meanwhile Paulina de la Santa Cruz nee Del Valle operates a successful steamship company transporting produce and high culture from Chile to California financially independent of her husband. Additionally, Allende briefly touches on the interracial romance of Eliza and Tao, which would not have been tolerated in their home countries, yet accepted in a melting pot society like that of 1850s California.

The end of the novel leaves me looking forward to reading its sequel A Portrait in Sepia. It is supposed to bridge the gap between the lives of Eliza and Paulina with the childhood of Clara in House of the Spirits. Because the second half of the book takes place in California rather than Chile, it is devoid of magical realism. This demonstrates to me that Allende is a gifted storyteller in many genres. I am looking forward to completing the trilogy once more and witnesses how she ties all of these stories together. ...more
4

Nov 11, 2016

Hija de la fortuna = Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
Daughter of Fortune (original Spanish title: Hija de la fortuna) is a novel by Isabel Allende, and was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection in February 2000. It was published first in Spanish by Plaza & Janés in 1998. Isabel Allende says "of her female protagonist in Daughter of Fortune, Eliza, that she might well represent who the author might have been in another life."
Allende spent seven years of research on this, her fifth Hija de la fortuna = Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
Daughter of Fortune (original Spanish title: Hija de la fortuna) is a novel by Isabel Allende, and was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection in February 2000. It was published first in Spanish by Plaza & Janés in 1998. Isabel Allende says "of her female protagonist in Daughter of Fortune, Eliza, that she might well represent who the author might have been in another life."
Allende spent seven years of research on this, her fifth novel, which she says is a story of a young woman's search for self-knowledge.
In Chile during the 1840s, Eliza Sommers is a young Chilean girl raised and educated by English Anglican siblings Victorian spinster Rose and strict Jeremy Sommers, and their sailor brother John Sommers, who are expats living in the port of Valparaiso, ever since they found her on their doorstep, and taught in the art of cooking by the Mapuche Indian Mama Fresia. Over most of Part I, Eliza's origins and upbringing, and her maturity are told. Eliza falls in love with Joaquin Andieta, a young Chilean man who is concerned about his mother who is living in poverty. The young couple have an affair, ultimately resulting in Eliza getting pregnant. Soon, news of gold being discovered in California reaches Chile, and Joaquin goes out to California in search of a fortune. Wanting to follow her lover, Eliza goes to California, with the help of Chinese zhong yi (physician), Tao Chi'en, who later becomes her friend, in the bowels of a ship headed by a Dutch Lutheran captain, Vincent Katz. ...
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه نوامبر سال 2002 میلادی
عنوان: دختر بخت؛ نویسنده: ایزابل آلنده؛ مترجم: اسدالله امرایی؛ ویراستار: غلامحسین سالمی؛ تهران، تندیس، 1379؛ در 431 ص؛ نقشه؛ چاپ سوم 1381؛ چهارم 1383؛ پنجم 1386؛ شابک: 9789649198477؛ چاپهای هفتم و هشتم 1392؛ موضوع: داستانهای امریکای لاتین - سده 20 م
داستان الیزا دختری سر راهی، در شیلی ست. او را دم در خانه ی خواهر و برادری انگلیسی تبار و مجرد و پولدار، رز و جرمی میگذارند. رز الیزا را فرزند خوانده ی خویش میکند. الیزا در آن خانواده سرشناس بزرگ، و در نوجوانی، عاشق خواکین میشود، و ... سپس به امریکا میگریزد و ...؛ شخصیتهای بسیار دختر بخت هر یک لحظاتی میدرخشند و سپس از نفس میافتند و جای خویش به دیگری میدهند. خوانشگر را به یاد تکگویی مکبث در سوگ لیدی مکبث میاندازد. ا. شربیانی ...more
4

Jan 23, 2019

This is an exciting historical novel in which we find a young Chilean woman of English education, Eliza Sommers. In 1849, when gold is discovered in California, she lives in Valparaiso, but when her lover, Joaquin Andieta, leaves in search of fortune, she follows him and finds herself in the basement of a ship, willing to do anything to regain the love of his life. The infernal voyage and the search for the lover in a land of prostitutes and lonely men exalted by the gold fever, make this young This is an exciting historical novel in which we find a young Chilean woman of English education, Eliza Sommers. In 1849, when gold is discovered in California, she lives in Valparaiso, but when her lover, Joaquin Andieta, leaves in search of fortune, she follows him and finds herself in the basement of a ship, willing to do anything to regain the love of his life. The infernal voyage and the search for the lover in a land of prostitutes and lonely men exalted by the gold fever, make this young woman an unusual woman who has only the help and affection of Tao Chi''en, a Chinese doctor. This work is the portrait of a time marked by violence and greed in a universe populated by characters that remain forever in our memory. ...more
2

Jun 05, 2008

This book starts out VERY engaging and remains that way through the first 3/4. Then, very abruptly, it is as if Allende ran out of things to say, or rather, became distracted by another project. The book ends TERRIBLY! The last 1/4 is a slog to get through and, becuase the first part is so wonderful, I kept reading and thinking "surely, this will work out." But no joy. I would suggest reading it BUT don't hope for a great wrap up at the end. It is a lot like drinking a cold bottle of Coke on a This book starts out VERY engaging and remains that way through the first 3/4. Then, very abruptly, it is as if Allende ran out of things to say, or rather, became distracted by another project. The book ends TERRIBLY! The last 1/4 is a slog to get through and, becuase the first part is so wonderful, I kept reading and thinking "surely, this will work out." But no joy. I would suggest reading it BUT don't hope for a great wrap up at the end. It is a lot like drinking a cold bottle of Coke on a hot day - everything starts out all fresh and fizzy and delicious but by the end of the bottle, it is just flat and luke warm. ...more
4

Mar 20, 2013

Rather than an objective evaluation of this novel as a work of literary fiction, this rating and review is more a reflection of how deeply it has continued to affect me over the years. Despite the differences of time and place, customs and traditions, exposure and beliefs, there is something very primitive about the bonds I share with Eliza Sommers. And to some extent, to the English colony in Valparaiso, Chile, where this story is set, in the first half of the 19th century. I am too strongly Rather than an objective evaluation of this novel as a work of literary fiction, this rating and review is more a reflection of how deeply it has continued to affect me over the years. Despite the differences of time and place, customs and traditions, exposure and beliefs, there is something very primitive about the bonds I share with Eliza Sommers. And to some extent, to the English colony in Valparaiso, Chile, where this story is set, in the first half of the 19th century. I am too strongly affected by my affiliation to Eliza to condemn this novel to what it truly is, though I will deal with that part too. It has struck too deep a chord in my heart, so consider this as much a disclaimer for what is to come as an admission of my deviation from objectivity.

I read this first in 2007, and though, with repeated readings I almost know it by heart, I keep on revisiting it in my quest to draw strength from obscure, invisible, intangible sources. It is about a girl growing wings in a cage that is supposed to keep them clipped. Some birds are simply not meant to fly, in others’ eyes. The bird will sing in its native tongue, perhaps a song of anguish, which its captors will take for one of joy. For the bird is supposed to entertain, not to be entertained. To comfort, not to be comforted. But people forget, that a clipped bird no longer sings. It only croons. Or refuses to sing at all.

We enter Valparaiso, a British Colony on the Chilean coast in the early 1800s, where women went about in stiff corsets, learning piano and housekeeping, straining their lungs out to be sweet, capable, subservient. Men, as Mama Fresia, the Mapucho cook of the Sommers family warned Eliza, “did what they pleased to women”, so that the honor of the women was solely at the discretion of her own self. While Eliza, an orphan brought up by the Sommers, begins to grow invisible wings, defiant of the stifling customs in her own silent, stubborn way, it falls to Rose, the sole woman in the family, to keep an eye on her, following her own indiscretion at the age of 18 with a German composer that had sentenced her to singlehood in a foreign country, where she secretly mourned the consequences of stepping out of the line of decency.

With Eliza unwittingly following the same course in the throes of young, passionate love and her lover Joaquin Andieta, a poor man fired with the ideas of revolution and a poet at heart, leaving Chile for California to try his luck in the Gold Rush, Rose descends into her own memories of her first wild love. Determined to pull Eliza out, she realizes it is too late, for Eliza has disappeared, and is most probably following her lover.

It is Eliza’s four-year long journey in an inhospitable, unruly, wild but free land that shapes her, and makes her fully aware of what she is. Dressed as a mute boy, with Tao Chi’en, the Chinese healer mourning for his dead, beloved wife Lin, Eliza heads out to find in the anonymous masses her lover, embarking on a journey that will not take her to him in the way she had wished. The journey of the search for her love transforms gradually into a journey of self-discovery, of little-by-little, discarding the vestiges and bondages of the cage that constrained her. Her quest for reuniting with her man leads her to him, but in ways she had never imagined when she started out pregnant with his baby at the age of sixteen. She finds her love, but it turns out to be very different from that of her dreams.

What interested me most were the quick pace of the work, the historical fiction aspect of it and the feminist slant to it. Although I don’t dislike Austen, I’m not particularly fond of her either (she writes way better than Allende), because I cannot relate to any of her heroines – they come across as stereotypes to me, which I’m not very sympathetic to. Allende’s writing is modest – I surely do not consider it her strong point. But it is for the most part simple but adequate in its pace, and devoid of lofty pretensions. Or maybe, it is just the translation which makes it a bit bland for my liking - maybe the original in Spanish is far better. So I'm inclined to give it the benefit of doubt.

She ties the strands expertly, not allowing for logical lapses, which are another pet peeve of mine – I prefer stories that do not flag rationally. The characterization, I thought, was the best part – to me Eliza hadn’t changed at all, though she had changed a lot – it happened so slowly by degrees, it didn’t feel artificial, though at some points it did seem a bit rushed.

But there were some pointed observations that resonate with me even now. Oh, her words haunt me day and night, even before I’d read them, because I live with them from day-to-day, straining to break free. They are my invisible cages that I beat and break my wings against. Even if they sound so ordinary.

“It is man’s nature to be savage; it is woman’s destiny to preserve moral values and good conduct,” Jeremy Sommers pontificated.
“Really, brother. You and I both know that my nature is more savage than yours,” Rose would joke.

“People are beginning to ask questions and Eliza surely imagines a future that does not befit her. Nothing as perilous, you know, as the demon of fantasy embedded in every female heart.”

Technically, there are quite a lot flaws – there is hardly any sub-text to decipher and enjoy, nor a lyrical, captivating narration. And yet, it captivated me, because Eliza mirrored me. I found myself when I stared into her eyes.

Eliza Sommers, I open your pages when I find myself blank. And I’d almost wept at the recognition when Rose told you

“I would happily give half my life to have the freedom a man has, Eliza. But we are women, and that is our cross. All we can do is try to get the best from the little we have.”

But I don’t intend to be a Rose, Eliza. I’d rather be you.
...more
4

Sep 09, 2018

3.5 stars
Confession time! I was cleaning this weekend and came across this book. A book that I thought I had finished reading, but I found a bookmark where I had obviously stopped.
A proper re-read for 2018 was warranted!
The best way to describe Isabel Allende is that she's both poet and painter. Just like a poet, Allende wants her readers to be seduced by all five senses. Like, a painter, Allende makes sure that her readers; with their eyes open or shut are transported back to the time period 3.5 stars
Confession time! I was cleaning this weekend and came across this book. A book that I thought I had finished reading, but I found a bookmark where I had obviously stopped.
A proper re-read for 2018 was warranted!
The best way to describe Isabel Allende is that she's both poet and painter. Just like a poet, Allende wants her readers to be seduced by all five senses. Like, a painter, Allende makes sure that her readers; with their eyes open or shut are transported back to the time period she's writing about. In this case, Chile and California in the span of years between 1843-1853. That might seem like a short period of time, but remember, there's lots of detail.
Perhaps the biggest gem of Allende's work is that she writes strong women and she puts her women in precarious situations and sees what they will do about them. Both Miss Rose and Eliza are women who both try to overcome the obstacles of their birth. The only drawback of the story was that it just ended without feeling like the end. ...more
4

Feb 07, 2018

I read this book a long time ago and remember I enjoyed it a lot. It was very well written, as is the case with all Allende’s books. I liked the gripping story-line and the characters which seemed real and vivid.
Maybe I would read it again in the near future.
2

Aug 01, 2009

My second Allende and it if this is bowling, this is her second strike.

The first one was last year. "Paula", Allende's memoir of her daughter who died while in coma. I liked it so much that I told myself that I will try to read all her books. Her crystal-clear prose, told in a simple straightforward fashion, is like a breath of fresh air and her stories about Chile that go back to the times even as far back as her great-great grandparents' years are so interesting that I envy her for knowing My second Allende and it if this is bowling, this is her second strike.

The first one was last year. "Paula", Allende's memoir of her daughter who died while in coma. I liked it so much that I told myself that I will try to read all her books. Her crystal-clear prose, told in a simple straightforward fashion, is like a breath of fresh air and her stories about Chile that go back to the times even as far back as her great-great grandparents' years are so interesting that I envy her for knowing those. (I only know some stories about my grandparents). Also, since the Philippines has retained some of its Spanish influences, I could relate to those superstitions, magical visions and ancient Catholic beliefs.

The story starts with Eliza Sommers as an infant left at the doorstep of a house where Jeremy and Rose Sommers, British siblings, reside. They take care of her. At 16, Eliza falls in love with a young Chilean man, Joaquin Andieta. Eliza gets pregnant and miscarriages. At about that time, Gold Rush in California (1848-1855) starts. Joaquin being so poor to take care of his ailing mother, goes to California to join the many Chileans who want to get their share of gold from that state. Eliza, left alone missing Joaquin, follows without saying goodbye to her despised (because of the scandal of her affair with Joaquin) foster "parents". What follows next is a story of her search for her love, lost in the people's frantic search for gold in California.

It is as if Eliza herself is searching for "her" gold. It is as if her love is so pure and innocent that it can be compared to the sparks and allure of gold being panned by "forty niners" from California rivers. Doubt not. This Oprah Book Club Selection of February 2000 is in itself, a gem. Allende says that Eliza's life mirrors her struggle to define the role of feminism in her life. This is because the girl infant left at the doorstep of the English siblings grew up to become a strong-willed, independent Chilean fighting for her existence under the American sky keeping that hope to find her happiness despite all odds being against her. Allende (born 1942), a Chilean-born, writes in Spanish but now lives in San Francisco. She is said to be the "the world's most widely read Spanish author". Allende's novels have been translated into over 30 languages and sold more than 56 million copies. (Source: Wiki).

Her being compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not by accident. She rightfully deserves it.

With her "House of Spirits", "Eva Luna" and "Of Love and Shadows" staring at me while sitting prettily in my bookshelf, I know there will be more Allende's strikes soon. ...more
4

Jul 28, 2014

What an imaginative tale filled with adventure and those common themes that make up an irresistible storyline. I found lovable characters and a plot that made me want more. With a bit of historical fiction thrown in for good measure. Great writing/words.

The only good thing about marriage is becoming a widow.
It isn't a husband who makes a woman look good, but many suitors.

All husbands are boring, John. No woman with an ounce of sense gets married to be entertained, she marries to be maintained.

What an imaginative tale filled with adventure and those common themes that make up an irresistible storyline. I found lovable characters and a plot that made me want more. With a bit of historical fiction thrown in for good measure. Great writing/words.

The only good thing about marriage is becoming a widow.
It isn't a husband who makes a woman look good, but many suitors.

All husbands are boring, John. No woman with an ounce of sense gets married to be entertained, she marries to be maintained.

Knowledge is of little use without wisdom, and there is no wisdom without spirituality.

...more
3

Mar 05, 2017

Written as sort of a prequel to The House of the Spirits, Daughter of Fortune will inevitably be compared to Isabel Allende's first and most famous book, and unfortunately, it doesn't even come close to reaching the bar set by its predecessor.

I was expecting another epic historical family saga, but instead this book is a romance (though at least with a decent twist at the end). I'll definitely read more books by Allende as I consider her to be an incredible author, but this was a disappointment.
4

May 29, 2007

I remember beginning to read Daughter of Fortune several years ago but for some reason put it aside and never finished it. How I was able to do that so easily, I will never know because the second time around this book ended up being difficult to put down.

Isabel Allende has created a very engaging and well-rounded character in Eliza Sommers. I found the most endearing thing about Eliza was her stubborness and her imperfections. Often that is what will draw me to a character because it makes them I remember beginning to read Daughter of Fortune several years ago but for some reason put it aside and never finished it. How I was able to do that so easily, I will never know because the second time around this book ended up being difficult to put down.

Isabel Allende has created a very engaging and well-rounded character in Eliza Sommers. I found the most endearing thing about Eliza was her stubborness and her imperfections. Often that is what will draw me to a character because it makes them real, and I found Eliza couldn't be more real if she had even stepped off the page.

Every character that Eliza encountered helped to enrich her life and each one added more to the story that kept you reading, but obviously the one you bonded to the most was the one who held a story of his own: Tao Chi'en. The bond those two created could drive you crazy and was really kept me reading until the very end.

Without giving anything away I'll finish off by saying this book is written like Eliza has developed: raw and real. Allende is not afraid to stray from the "Hollywood" style of story telling, with everything working out as it should or the way the reader wants it to end. There are bumps and blips throughout the story that will drive you true-heart romantics out of your mind, but those of us who crave a certain reality in our stories will love it.

In the end this story will make you feel good, even better than your typical "feel good" book because you feel like you can tell yourself, this is real... maybe it really did happen... ...more
1

Nov 19, 2011

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The story begins in Valparaiso, Chile and is focused around Eliza Sommers. An infant Eliza was abandoned on the doorstep of Rose and Jeremy Sommers (brother and sister), and Rose raised Eliza as the daughter. One day, Englishman Jacob Todd comes to Chile, supposedly as a missionary out to convert the heathen population. Many, many pages then ensue with endless bits of information about Todd's life in Chile and his socializing with the Sommers until he's finally run out of town. How exciting that The story begins in Valparaiso, Chile and is focused around Eliza Sommers. An infant Eliza was abandoned on the doorstep of Rose and Jeremy Sommers (brother and sister), and Rose raised Eliza as the daughter. One day, Englishman Jacob Todd comes to Chile, supposedly as a missionary out to convert the heathen population. Many, many pages then ensue with endless bits of information about Todd's life in Chile and his socializing with the Sommers until he's finally run out of town. How exciting that was. Not.

The story then switches to a more grown up Eliza who has found her twu wuv fowevar and she'd like nothing better than to marry him, but him being poor and not white that's not going to be an option so the two have secret sex in the storeroom when everyone is asleep. How exciting that was. Not.

Then finally, things show signs of picking up - there's gold in them thar hills in California and Eliza's lover runs off to make his fortune. Eliza isn't having none of that, especially when she finds she's pregnant, so she plots to get on a ship to California and find him. I know, I know - it's a big state and all, but she's going to find him dammit. Eliza can't just buy passage on an outbound ship (small town and all), so she stumbles upon Tao Chi'en, who sneaks her on the ship he's working on and hides her away.

Being pregnant and all she's soon sick as sick can be, but miracle of miracles (!!!), Tao Chi'en is a doctor. And just so's we know he's a real doctor we get pages upon pages of details about his life in China and how he became a doctor until he was shanghaied. Endless pages of details, just so we know the author did her research. How exciting that was. Not.

OK, so it took 200+ pages before our intrepid pair get to San Francisco, so you think things would pick up, right? Not. You then get another 200 pages of Eliza and Tao Chi'en making their way around searching for the lost boyfriend. Or Eliza striking out on her own searching for the lost boyfriend. Or all about Eliza dressing as a man and meeting up with an odd group of misfits and the boring life they led. How exciting that was. Not.

Frankly, I am flummoxed at all the rave reviews from all those professional type newspaper reviewers. Perhaps this is another one of those literary books that everyone loves because we're supposed to love because *everyone* says we're supposed to love it. Perhaps it's just me again, but this was probably the most boring novel ever, topped off with the longest paragraphs I've ever seen outside of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel - although Hawthorne can tell a good story. This author, cannot. ...more
5

Jun 29, 2010

Let me say it upfront: I'm a devoted fan of Ms Allende. From her House of the Spirits to Zorro, I have reveled in her quixotic, sensual, unabashedly sprawling explorations of family ties, the toll and joys of love in all its diverse forms, and the independent spirit of the immigrant. Infused with Ms Allende's trademark turns of phrase ("fate lashed its tail and changed her life forever") and cast of eccentric characters driven by private obsessions, this novel takes place in the 1800s, starting Let me say it upfront: I'm a devoted fan of Ms Allende. From her House of the Spirits to Zorro, I have reveled in her quixotic, sensual, unabashedly sprawling explorations of family ties, the toll and joys of love in all its diverse forms, and the independent spirit of the immigrant. Infused with Ms Allende's trademark turns of phrase ("fate lashed its tail and changed her life forever") and cast of eccentric characters driven by private obsessions, this novel takes place in the 1800s, starting in Chile with the discovery of a baby in a soap crate, left on the threshold of the very proper but secret-riddled English family of the Sommers. The child, named Eliza, is raised by the delightful wasp-waisted Ms Rose Sommers, indoctrinated in the limited methods a girl can employ to survive in their rarefied society; but when Eliza falls passionately and unexpectedly in love with a common clerk, she flees the safe emptiness of her cloistered existence for feral California, embarking on an adventure that awakens her to life's vast potential and cracks the fragile veneer in which the Sommers themselves have dwelled. Ms Allende's deft pen conjures to vivid, humane life both the hypocrisy of Victorian mores in South America as well as the savage abandon of the Gold Rush; her cast is wide and diverse, ranging from the mourning Chinese physician who accompanies Eliza to a caravan of prostitutes led by a transgender humanitarian. Very few writers today can claim the mastery of color and depth of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work; I humbly suggest that Ms Allende is definitely one of them.
...more
0

Jun 18, 2019

Daughter of Fortune is the first of two historical fiction novels I am reading summer 2019. Author Isabel Allende follows several fictional characters--many Chilean, others Chinese or British--through the decades surrounding the 1849 San Francisco gold rush, with particular attention to main character Eliza Sommers’s romantic pursuits.

Eliza initially leaves Chile for the United States when her first love, Joaquin Andieta, runs off to the gold rush and leaves her pregnant. She meets Tao Chi’en, Daughter of Fortune is the first of two historical fiction novels I am reading summer 2019. Author Isabel Allende follows several fictional characters--many Chilean, others Chinese or British--through the decades surrounding the 1849 San Francisco gold rush, with particular attention to main character Eliza Sommers’s romantic pursuits.

Eliza initially leaves Chile for the United States when her first love, Joaquin Andieta, runs off to the gold rush and leaves her pregnant. She meets Tao Chi’en, currently working as a ship chef but importantly, a talented zhong yi (physician). Eliza and Tao team up and enter California together, though it is significantly more difficult for Eliza to travel and to disguise herself as a deaf and mute young Chinese man. Peppered throughout are tall tales concerning California outlaw Joaquin Murieta, who Eliza suspects is her love Andieta, keep Eliza enthralled in pursuing her fairy tale romance.

Eliza’s adopted family and close friend Tao Chi’en are given extensive backstories that function as separate chapters within the narrative. Eliza, though naive, is a likable character who adapts to any situation she finds herself in. As a writer, Isabel Allende is known for her magical realism, which was not too common in Daughter of Fortune but can be found in other works such as The House of the Spirits. Still, Allende relies on thick, sensory description to bring the debaucherous streets of San Francisco to life, as well as Chinese city Guangzhou and Chilean city Valparaíso. Recommended to fans of historical (romantic) fiction. ...more
2

Oct 20, 2007

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love historical fiction. I enjoyed several parts in this story, but I must say that it was not a page turner for me. I made myself finish. This book is about the power of first love. How your ideal love and your want of love can prevent you from seeing what you really had. Eliza loved her first lover Joaquin to obsession and it takes her years to realize that their love was possibly not true love after all and was sugar coated in her naive, sixteen year old mind. She is so obsessed with I love historical fiction. I enjoyed several parts in this story, but I must say that it was not a page turner for me. I made myself finish. This book is about the power of first love. How your ideal love and your want of love can prevent you from seeing what you really had. Eliza loved her first lover Joaquin to obsession and it takes her years to realize that their love was possibly not true love after all and was sugar coated in her naive, sixteen year old mind. She is so obsessed with Joaquin that she about kills herself trying to get to California to find him. She travels for months on a ship originating from her home in Chile and when she gets there she spends years searching for him still! I was upset with the ending. One of my pet peeves is when I have to visualize my own happy ending. I don't always like the authors of books to leave it up to the reader to assume what happened. It depends on my mood, I suppose.

Ms. Allende does a great job of setting the scene of the time period. It is an epic journey for Eliza and for Tao. There was plenty of foreshadowing on how the story would end, but none of it was realized and there were plenty of plot points unresolved. I couldn't wait for Tao and Eliza to be together. I read so many pages about characters and plot sequences that did not interest me as much as their relationship. Relationships are the most interesting for me in any story- that is just my preference. I read the last page and I was looking for another page! I was waiting for them to run into each other's arms. A wedding? A hug? But no, they hold hands, she says, "I am free" and it's done. I was surprised at the abruptness of the ending seeing that the book is over 400 pages and she takes plenty of time describing other things that didn't really add to the story for me. In terms of the book's content, I would have to say it is practically "R" rated, at least for me. There are well described love scenes and quite a few "f-bombs." I am giving this story only two stars because it was just okay. I would have to say that I think Steinbeck is much more enjoyable and satisfying in reading about California and his fictional characters. I wonder if something was lost in the translation of this novel from Spanish to English. I have heard that magic can be lost and that it is often better to read a book in its original state. Yet, I read only English and so I'm grateful for translated books! I am glad that I got to be reminded about how crazy San Francisco was during the gold rush. How America came to be is always amazingly interesting to me. I love how the journalist in this story points out how the West would've taken centuries longer to develop if the gold rush had never happened at all. ...more
2

Apr 02, 2018

This novel has flashes of brilliance and beautiful writing, but is dragged down by a meandering plot and truly terrible dialogue. At times, it feels like Allende is less interested in putting together a coherent story with compelling characters, and more interested in detailing life in various 1850s societies (Valparaiso, San Francisco, Hong Kong). There's a lot in here about how women are treated in each place, the awfulness of deep poverty, and racism across continents. It's interesting to This novel has flashes of brilliance and beautiful writing, but is dragged down by a meandering plot and truly terrible dialogue. At times, it feels like Allende is less interested in putting together a coherent story with compelling characters, and more interested in detailing life in various 1850s societies (Valparaiso, San Francisco, Hong Kong). There's a lot in here about how women are treated in each place, the awfulness of deep poverty, and racism across continents. It's interesting to read about the first few years of the Gold Rush in San Francisco, particularly as a former resident: Allende makes a point of the similar real estate prices in Sacramento and San Francisco in the years after the fervor dies down. And I really liked the themes of love, and loneliness, and found family. It's hard not to empathize with Eliza and the lover that she constructs to replace the reality of Joaquin.

The real problem with the book is the dialogue, which is awful in almost every single instance and is used only to deliver Allende's ideas or to bridge two pieces of the plot. No one actually talks like this. It's a disservice to the characters, and it sticks out because the descriptive passages are quite good. Later, Allende also uses Eliza's letters to Tao Chi'en to achieve the same lackluster and awkward effect. The plot is also terrible. Allende goes back and forth between Jacob Todd (a character who does not have to exist), Eliza, Tao Chi'en, and the Sommers family in Valparaiso. Over the course of the novel it becomes clear that (view spoiler)[Eliza and Tao Chi'en are meant to be together (hide spoiler)], which is hampered by Joaquin's absence and potential role as famous Californian outlaw. At the end of the book, there are two hilariously ridiculous things that happen. First, Jacob Todd (view spoiler)[recognizes Eliza after 10+ years apart when she is dressed as a boy, thousands of miles away from where he originally met her (hide spoiler)]. Secondly, the love story for Joaquin and Eliza (view spoiler)[ends when Eliza MIGHT HAVE SEEN HIS SEVERED HEAD IN A JUG OF GIN. It's unclear if it's actually his head, and the book ends ON THAT PAGE. I honestly kept flipping back and forth to see if I had missed anything. This felt like a cheap way for Eliza to get closure with Joaquin so that she could move on with Tao, and it was also DUMB (hide spoiler)]. I disapprove.

I can only recommend this with reservations, and only if you are interested in reading about San Francisco during the Gold Rush. The rest of it is pretty bad. ...more
3

Sep 17, 2007

Ironically, the strength of this book is the very thing that annoyed me by the end. Allende does an amazing job crafting complex characters and weaving their multiple stories together. Her descriptions invoke all the senses and make the reader feel like she/he is actually experiencing mid-19th century gold-crazy San Francisco. Tracing the lives of a half dozen main characters over seven years through three different countries is no easy task, and while Allende mostly handles it well, there are Ironically, the strength of this book is the very thing that annoyed me by the end. Allende does an amazing job crafting complex characters and weaving their multiple stories together. Her descriptions invoke all the senses and make the reader feel like she/he is actually experiencing mid-19th century gold-crazy San Francisco. Tracing the lives of a half dozen main characters over seven years through three different countries is no easy task, and while Allende mostly handles it well, there are times when there is just a bit too much description at the expense of plot and suspense. Each chapter begins by returning to another subplot and having to fill out this character's life for the amount of time that has passed. Towards the end of the book, when I was really looking forward to having some of the loose ends tied up, these lengthy descriptions became disturbances. ...more
5

Jul 27, 2011

"Where there are women, there is civilisation ..."
- Paulina Rodriguez de Santa Cruz

What do you remember about your first love? Some said that first love last forever, do you agree? First love encouraged Eliza to leave her family, experienced a near-death journey from Valparaiso to the new world, California, chasing Joaquín Andieta's shadow fearlessly. Through the journey she realised that she then has the freedom beyond anything she imagined before, and that was something precious for any woman. "Where there are women, there is civilisation ..."
- Paulina Rodriguez de Santa Cruz

What do you remember about your first love? Some said that first love last forever, do you agree? First love encouraged Eliza to leave her family, experienced a near-death journey from Valparaiso to the new world, California, chasing Joaquín Andieta's shadow fearlessly. Through the journey she realised that she then has the freedom beyond anything she imagined before, and that was something precious for any woman.

As a female author, Isabel Allende surely has charm in inventing amazing female characters. I met Eva Luna a while ago, now I was honoured to meet Eliza, Paulina, and Rose Sommers. Even Lin and her 'golden lilies' feet was such a strong character that blew fresh air to the story.

What's best in portraying the new world than this amazing story? The gold fever opened new chances for a new beginning, but at what cost? American natives were hunted down like animals, derived from their own land, in the name of greed and certain race supremacy. No laws protecting the immigrants, no matter how hard they're working and contributed to the California's economic stabily, it was nothing because of their skin colours.

I think I have to agree with a friend when he said, nobody wrote, or can write, or will write, like Allende.


****

Kisah hebat tentang cinta, perbedaan budaya, rasialisme, dan dunia baru ketika semua orang mencari keberuntungan dalam demam emas atau sekedar melarikan diri dari kehidupan lamanya.

Eliza Sommers, berangkat seorang diri ke California saat demam emas sedang melanda demi mengejar sang pujaan hati Joaquín Andieta. Adil sepertinya mengatakan cinta pertama selalu berkesan mendalam. Namun seberapa jauh kita akan terus mengejar cinta pertama itu?

Sungguh membaca karya-karya Allende selalu membuatku berharap setiap kisah yang aku baca tidak akan berakhir. Tidak akan pernah. ...more
5

Feb 04, 2018

Daughter of Fortune is an epic historical adventure set in the mid-1800s, spanning the globe from England to China to Chile to the American west. The main character, Eliza, is abandoned as an infant on the doorstep of wealthy British Siblings, resettled in Valparaíso, Chile. The first half of the book, set in Chile, is focused on Eliza’s early years, family, and first love. The second half transports the reader to the tumultuous days of the California gold rush, contrasting the initial visions Daughter of Fortune is an epic historical adventure set in the mid-1800s, spanning the globe from England to China to Chile to the American west. The main character, Eliza, is abandoned as an infant on the doorstep of wealthy British Siblings, resettled in Valparaíso, Chile. The first half of the book, set in Chile, is focused on Eliza’s early years, family, and first love. The second half transports the reader to the tumultuous days of the California gold rush, contrasting the initial visions of easy wealth with vivid descriptions of the harsh realities encountered upon arrival.

Allende has created engaging and colorful characters. Eliza is memorable for her courageous, independent spirit and Chinese healer Tao Chi'en for his quiet integrity. The era is beautifully rendered with historically accurate details. This imaginative, skillfully-written story touches on such meaningful themes as racism, classism, sex trafficking, female empowerment, the spirit of adventure, greed, self-discovery, reinvention, rebellion, compassion, freedom, and the many forms of love.

The book gains momentum as it progresses, becoming ever more engrossing. Recommended to those interested in family sagas, perilous journeys, and historical fiction, especially of the 19th century. Includes violence to humans and animals, profanity, prostitution, and other sexual content. ...more
2

Jul 25, 2007

Isabella Allende writes good stories with strong female characters. Her books always have an interesting plot that reveals her Hispanic heritage. Daughter of Fortune takes the reader back to Allende’s homeland, Chile, before going to San Fransico. The book has wonderful detail, although the plot requires to much “backstory,” which often occurs at awkward times and interrupts the flow of the narrative. If you’re an Allende fan looking for a quick read, you can’t go wrong with this book. However, Isabella Allende writes good stories with strong female characters. Her books always have an interesting plot that reveals her Hispanic heritage. Daughter of Fortune takes the reader back to Allende’s homeland, Chile, before going to San Fransico. The book has wonderful detail, although the plot requires to much “backstory,” which often occurs at awkward times and interrupts the flow of the narrative. If you’re an Allende fan looking for a quick read, you can’t go wrong with this book. However, if this is going to be your first Allende book, I recommend reading Zorro or House of Spirits instead of reading Daughter of Fortune. ...more
3

Jan 08, 2015

I really wanted to love this book. I have heard great things about Allende's writing and just recently seen this getting 5 star ratings... so what happened? I think I am out of tune with the current writing style -- I know that the saying is "show don't tell" but I found myself several times while listening to this audiobook wishing Allende wouldn't show but just tell me! For example, at one point Eliza bets (view spoiler)[her last few coins on a contest between a bear and a bull. She loses but I really wanted to love this book. I have heard great things about Allende's writing and just recently seen this getting 5 star ratings... so what happened? I think I am out of tune with the current writing style -- I know that the saying is "show don't tell" but I found myself several times while listening to this audiobook wishing Allende wouldn't show but just tell me! For example, at one point Eliza bets (view spoiler)[her last few coins on a contest between a bear and a bull. She loses but the fight between the two animals is described in great detail -- too much detail in my opinion. I understand that these were brutal times and that this is a brutal sport - I don't need to hear about how the bear ripped the snout off the bull. That is just padding & disgusting padding at that. (hide spoiler)]

The book also suffered for me because I didn't find Eliza very believable. Nor her 'mother' Rose for that matter. I was taken aback near the beginning of the story by Rose (view spoiler)[taking Eliza as a young child to the orphanage & threatening to dump her there if she didn't stop complaining and do her piano lessons!! And there is no governess or tutor -- how is Eliza supposed to be learning anything other than what she learns from the Chilean housekeeper? (hide spoiler)] So a big section of the plot didn't work for me later on when (view spoiler)[Rose is supposed to be so heartbroken that Eliza has run away. And then neither she nor Jeremy knew the housekeeper's last name after 18 years! Even before that, when Rose is trying to find her a husband, it didn't seem reasonable that she didn't talk to Eliza about it at all. (hide spoiler)]

The idea of telling a tale of the California gold rush from the perspective of the underclasses (women and non-white immigrants) is a good one. But I was disappointed to see the trite stereotype of (view spoiler)[the prostitute with the heart of gold as one of the main secondary female characters. Granted she is described as a "man trapped in a woman's body" and over 6 feet tall but still... (hide spoiler)] The best parts for me were those involving Tao Chi'en.
...more
3

Aug 13, 2011

I wound up being disappointed in this book by Isabel Allende. The premise of the story is quite fascinating with tons of potential. An abandoned baby girl, Eliza, is taken in by a wealthy family and is raised within two cultures, English and Chilean. Her family is very complex and her day to day needs are provided by a Chilean house servant. She has a charmed but rather sheltered life while being influenced by the colorful yet mysterious ways of the Chileans. As Eliza enters her teenage years, I wound up being disappointed in this book by Isabel Allende. The premise of the story is quite fascinating with tons of potential. An abandoned baby girl, Eliza, is taken in by a wealthy family and is raised within two cultures, English and Chilean. Her family is very complex and her day to day needs are provided by a Chilean house servant. She has a charmed but rather sheltered life while being influenced by the colorful yet mysterious ways of the Chileans. As Eliza enters her teenage years, she meets a Chilean boy near her age and falls madly in love with him. This love becomes an obsession for her. He winds up abandoning her to pursue wealth in California during the time of the Gold Rush. Eliza is shaken to the core by this and while pregnant with her lover's child, leaves her home unnoticed to secretly board a ship bound to California. With plans to look for her lover and start over with him in a new country, much heartache and adventure ensues. The first half of this story is excellent and very well told. Allende's prose is captivating so I was easily drawn into Eliza's world. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the story telling just stalls. It became repetitive and hasty. The ending is rushed and is left with too many loose ends. This could have been a great, great book but the story suffers too much. What a disappointment for those who are fans of Allende's work. 3 stars may be too generous but I really loved the book up until Eliza's arrival in California. ...more
3

Jul 30, 2016

3 and a half stars.

This book follows Eliza, a young girl from Chile, as she uproots her life and follows her lover to the goldfields of California during the gold rush.

I loved the descriptions in this book, and how it had me Googling Chile as I didn't really know much about it as a country before this. The historical fiction element was also fascinating, and I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the Californian gold rush.

Eliza, as a character was really interesting and the descriptions 3 and a half stars.

This book follows Eliza, a young girl from Chile, as she uproots her life and follows her lover to the goldfields of California during the gold rush.

I loved the descriptions in this book, and how it had me Googling Chile as I didn't really know much about it as a country before this. The historical fiction element was also fascinating, and I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the Californian gold rush.

Eliza, as a character was really interesting and the descriptions in the book reminded me a little bit of 'Like Water for Chocolate'.

Where it fell short was the ending. I felt like it was a bit rushed, and then abrupt, which was a disappointment, and seems ridiculous in a book of this length. Other than that, it would have gotten 4 stars, and I will definitely try other books by this author should I come across them. ...more
4

Jan 28, 2014

I read this for the 2017 POPSUGAR Challenge prompt 'A Book by an Author from a Country You've Never Visited (Peru in this case)'

17/4 - I really, really enjoyed this. I love reading books that follow a character for many years and this did that beautifully. While Eliza was clearly the main character, Daughter of Fortune had a great ensemble cast who I was really invested in the future of.

My only complaint was the very end. I don't like ambiguous endings and I was really disappointed to see that I read this for the 2017 POPSUGAR Challenge prompt 'A Book by an Author from a Country You've Never Visited (Peru in this case)'

17/4 - I really, really enjoyed this. I love reading books that follow a character for many years and this did that beautifully. While Eliza was clearly the main character, Daughter of Fortune had a great ensemble cast who I was really invested in the future of.

My only complaint was the very end. I don't like ambiguous endings and I was really disappointed to see that this book had one. Eliza's final line to Tao Chi'en was (view spoiler)["I'm free.", but that didn't tell me for sure if Murieta really was Andieta. I mean was Eliza telling us/Chi'en/herself the literal truth, that she's now free of Andieta, but is that because it was Andieta's body she was viewing or because it's not but it doesn't matter because she's given up looking for him. (hide spoiler)] I also wanted a more definitive answer on the relationship between (view spoiler)[Eliza and Tao Chi'en. There are a couple of teasers in the second half of the book that imply that they are still 'together', but together in what way. Does she continue to live and work with him as a sort of 'roommate', or do they eventually admit their true feelings for each other? (hide spoiler)] I will definitely be continuing on with Portrait in Sepia (when I can find the time in my busy reading schedule). ...more
3

May 05, 2014


Telling the tale. Literally

Daughter of Fortune undeniably proves that Isabel Allende is one of those gifted story-tellers that enable you to submerge in the narrative with endless pleasure, without looking for hidden meanings, clever techniques, intertextual dialogues and whatever other elements a second degree reading challenges you to. You simply follow the story that flows peacefully like a lullaby, respecting the chronology, building an atmosphere, depicting characters, going to a rising
Telling the tale. Literally

Daughter of Fortune undeniably proves that Isabel Allende is one of those gifted story-tellers that enable you to submerge in the narrative with endless pleasure, without looking for hidden meanings, clever techniques, intertextual dialogues and whatever other elements a second degree reading challenges you to. You simply follow the story that flows peacefully like a lullaby, respecting the chronology, building an atmosphere, depicting characters, going to a rising point from where it quietly and satisfactorily ends when it is time for it to end.

Of course, there are some (post)modern elements, like flash-forwards full of false promises since they never deliver later the elaborate story they seemed to point to, even though they will not become truly red-herrings:

Many years later, going over the notes in her diary for that period, Eliza asked herself with amazement why neither of them had recognized the undeniable attraction they felt…

Quite interesting is the construction of one ambiguous character, who seems to perpetually oscillate between good and evil, heroic and dastard, myth and abjection. Andieta, suspected to have become Murieta, is almost never presented directly, but first through Eliza’s eyes to be later gloriously reinvented by a journalist in an epic lie:

His articles on Joaquin Murieta had become the hottest item in the press. Every day came new testimonials confirming what he had written; dozen of individuals swore they had seen Murieta and described him exactly as the character Freemont had invented.

There is also an ambiguous, open ending, for it is not clear whether the heroine is freed by the death of her lover or by her new love, but basically Daughter of Fortune (and I understand Allende’s other novels too) is mainly about telling the tale so to speak.

And the tale, like the narrative, is mesmerizing. In the neo-realist style of a historical novel, it recounts the life of Eliza Sommers, the adopted daughter of a rich family first in an English colony in Chile, then in California during the gold rush. The leading story is accompanied but many others, reconstructing an era of class and race prejudices, both in Chile and China, prejudices that seem to lose their significance together with the birth of a new world, in a new land:

Few men had made their fortune with gold but, thanks to adventurers who had come by the thousands, California was becoming civilized. Without gold fever, the conquest of the West would have been delayed by a couple of centuries…

And of course, there is love, as usual, love that motivates and impels the characters to keep going, idealized love or star-crossed love or betrayed love, or love that seems impossible because of the race differences but that will rewrite the story of the Beauty and the Beast in the end:

“You look like a pretty Chinese girl”, Tao had said in an unguarded moment. “You have the face of a handsome Chilean”, she had immediately answered.

Overall, an enchanting novel for everyone who is fair enough to acknowledge that sometimes it is so relaxing to concentrate on the “what” while putting the “how” of the narrative in the background.
...more

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