Monday, July 21, 2008

The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende

Bestselling novelist Isabel Allende took readers on an unforgettable emotional journey with Paula, the profound story about the loss of her 28-year-old daughter. Now, Allende returns to the territory of family with an inspirational new memoir. The Sum of Our Days is the passionate account of a remarkable woman--mother, stepmother, grandmother, wife and lover, fiercely loyal friend and gifted writer--and of the eccentric extended family Allende created in the wake of her daughter's death.

Opening at the moment the family scatters Paula's ashes, Allende's story draws us immediately into her private world. She weaves an episodic narrative about the lives of the strong-minded, eclectic people she has gathered around her, constructing, in her grief, a new concept of family. But most importantly, Allende reveals something of herself that will speak to fans everywhere--the amazing stories behind her books, the superstitions that guide her writing process, her adventurous travels, the intimate moments of her marriage and the joy she gets from her children and friends.

Narrated with warmth, humour, exceptional candour and wisdom, The
Sum of Our Days is a portrait of a contemporary family tied together by the
love, strong will and stubborn determination of a beloved matriarch, the
indomitable Isabel Allend[e].

I love Isabel Allende. She has been one of my favourite writers for years. It all started when I met a girl from Argentina several years ago and she learned that I was a big reader. Her two recommendations for me were Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. This was before blogging days, so word of mouth was the most common way that I learned about new authors. I had Allende as a favourite author way before Oprah made Daughter of Fortune one of her book club selections and she has remained a favourite ever since. Her books are often either magic realism (which is sort of like fantasy) or historical fiction so she easily writes for me. The first book I read by her was House of the Spirits, and it wasn't long before I had read everything that was out at the time. Then, because I just have too many books and too many authors that I want to get to, she sort of slipped off my RADAR. I own all of her books, she is an automatic buy for me, but for whatever reason I haven't read anything by her in a few years.

The Sum of Our Days is her newest book. While I have a few older ones to read, (Zorro, Ines of my Soul, and her young adult trilogy), this was the book I picked up with the hopes of reconnecting with an author I have enjoyed for years. Paula, her early memoir, was out at about the same time that I was just starting to read Allende. It is the story of her daughters untimely death and the struggle that the family went through to get passed it. This book takes place at about the time that the last one stopped and fills in everything that has happened since. Allende writes really readable non-fiction, so I found that I was easily caught up in her story and read this book relatively quickly.

I have to say that for someone that has been reading Allende for several years and has read almost all of her books, I can easily see a progression in her writing. I am also older, too, so maybe that plays a part in it, but I found this book much more readable than Paula. While I liked that book I had a remember having a hard time with the writing style. This one flowed a lot better. It could also have been that Paula was a rather depressing book and this one has a lof of happy times represented in it. I would have to reread Paula to say for sure. I often pick up one of Allende's books with the idea of rereading (especially House of the Spirits and Daughter of Fortune), but I think that I should read the books I haven't read by her before I revisit the old favourites.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that Allende explains the inspiration behind her books! I really enjoy learning about the hidden meaning behind authors work. What happened is now I really want to read Ines of my Soul (finally) and I understand why she wrote Zorro (which I have tried to read and never managed to get very far into). This book is really a long letter to Paula, her deceased daughter, catching her up on the things that have been happening in the years since she died. I think it is a great idea because Allende is a letter writer, having written to her mother almost daily since they moved apart from each other, so a letter to her daughter is a perfect way to capture her life. Allende talks very candidly about her large family. She has a very interesting one that is entertaining to read about. The book is a mixture of the good and the bad, but written in a way that you never feel too overwhelmed.

The simplest thing to say is that I think this is Allende at her best. After reading a lot of great books by her, there were a couple that sort of bored me and are likely why I stopped reading her for a while. That and my attempts at reading Zorro always end in me putting the book aside for another day. I know Allende is not for everyone, I have seen rather negative reviews of The House of the Spirits, for example, but I think she is an author that everyone she at least try. For years when people would ask me my favourite authors I would always answer Madeleine L'Engle and Isabel Allende. The list has grown now and I find that question harder and harder to answer, but Allende will always be one of my favourites. I hope she continues to write for many more years to come.

It was 5 in the morning when I started this, so if it makes no sense, blame the late hour! It's also the work computer which has formating issues I will fix later today at home.

My thanks to Harper Collins for sending me this book!

On another note, I was looking at my nightstand and almost all the books I have on the go are non-fiction. I was telling my Rush-fan friend about this because it is rather weird for me, and they were more caught up in the fact that I have more than one book on the go. That's normal for me, though. I always start books, get bored, move on to something else, and then randomly go back and read one I started ages ago! I have been reading that way forever. Anyways, I was really surprised by all the non-fiction. I haven't really been keeping a list of my reading this year (I am having a relaxed year), but I think the vast majority of the books I have actually finished this year are non-fiction. I am having a weird year, but the books I am reading are for the most part really good, so I cannot really complain!


  1. Sounds like a great book!

    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
    Chapter 1 is online!

  2. I am ashamed to say I've never read anything by Allende or Garcia Marquez but I am at least rectifying the latter by reading Love in the Time of Cholera for my book club next month.

  3. I have only read one Garcia Marquez, but I own Love in the Time of Cholera. One of these days I will read it! I do recommend Allende, though. I have read several of her books and can safely say she is a good bet!

  4. I have yet to read anything by Isabel Allende. I do have a couple of her books on my TBR. What would you recommend I start with?

  5. Hi Teddy,

    The first book I read by Allende was The House of the Spirits. It is not for everyone, though, so I am worried if I say that first and you don't like it you will never read her again. Considering you are a fan of historical fiction, I would go with Daughter of Fortune and its sequel Potrait in Sepia.

  6. I read the House of the Spirits and LOVED it. I literally cannot get that book out of my head. I have not read anything else by her, but I should really change that. Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. You really should read more Allende, Kim! She is a great author!


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