Chilean-American author Isabel Allende wrote with nostalgia and humor about her home country. A storyteller, she looked back at her life in Santiago. Reflected on her nomadic life, family, connection with Chile, and the country’s history.
With “My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile” we can already start noticing a pattern. I review another non-fiction book, also a memoir, after Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Same theme, different country.
This colorful memoir was the first book of Allende that I read. “Let’s begin at the beginning, with Chile, that remote land that few people can locate on the map because it’s as far as you can go without falling off the planet” is the first sentence of the first chapter that introduced me to another world.
Her recollections are in a dynamic pace and educational, as I learned about the history and geography of Chile, about the Chilean society and their food. About Easter Island and their culture. Manpuche and Aymara indigenous population. This was my biggest gain as a reader.
I found her writing imaginative, and the life, fascinating and eventful. Both her personal and professional life as a journalist and writer gave her many homes across the world. Isabel Allende was away from Chile since 1988, and only visited it yearly. Therefore she felt she had to partly ‘invent’ her native country in order to write about it 30 years later.
If I had never traveled, if I had stayed on, safe and secure in the bosom of my family, if I had accepted my grandfather’s vision and his rules, it would have been impossible for me to recreate or embellish my own existence, because it would have been defined by others and I would merely be one link more in a long family chain.Isabel Allende quote from ‘My Invented country’
In an article in The Gaurdian is mentioned that Isabel Allende was a feminist long before she knew what the word meant. Reading this book, I understood.
Looking back at her adolescence in Chile, years she considers exile in Venezuela, working in Europe for United Nations and her current life in California, in the book she examined the relevance and behavior of women in different contexts. And how hard was to be taken seriously at the beginning as a woman writer.
Today she is considered the first successful women novelist from Latin America, while publishing her first book when she was 40.
I often ask myself what exactly nostalgia is. In my case, it’s not so much wanting to live in Chile as it is the desire to recapture the certainty I feel there.
But that’s how nostalgia is: a slow dance in a large circle. Memories don’t organize themselves chronologically, they’re like smoke, changing, ephemeral, and if they’re not written down they fade into oblivion.Isabel Allende quotes from ‘My Invented country’
The book was published in 2003, but I discovered it years later in my 20s, and re-read it recently. While reading it the first time, it impressed me so much. I wondered if someday I would like to discover a similar story about my home country. Maybe secretly I wanted to have the courage and ability to write one.
Subconsciously, is what I did with this digital diary and the few (for now) stories I wrote about Constanța, Bucharest, cities of Transylvania, Cluj or Timișoara, Capital of Culture this year. I still have a long way to go.
Instead of conclusion, the latest paragraph sums it all up beautifully
This book has helped me understand that I am not obligated to make a decision: I can have one foot in Chile and another here, that’s why we have planes. (…) For the moment California is my home and Chile is the land of my nostalgia. My heart isn’t divided, it has merely grown larger.Isabel Allende quote from ‘My Invented country’
Today, in her 80s, Isabel Allende still writes books while living in California. The Soul of a Woman – her latest book, the 25th, was published in 2021.
2 thoughts on “Book review – My Invented Country”
Great review! This book was also the first one I read from Allende and it truly left a mark on me! I love her writing style and how she presents her own country, and could also relate to some aspects, especially about nostalgia and about having “two homes”.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for the compliment. I think the ones who lived for longer periods in different countries like us can relate more with this book.
LikeLiked by 1 person