In 1988 Isabel Allende published Eva Luna, a novel that recounted the adventurous life of a poor young Latin American woman who finds friendship, love, and some measure of worldly success through her powers as a storyteller. Her most ambitious novel to date, Eva Luna was described by The Washington Post as a “cascade of stories [that] tumbles out before the reader, stories vivid, passionate, and human.” Now in The Stories of Eva Luna, Isabel Allende again presents us with a treasure trove of such stories, showing us once more why Eva Luna (and her much-celebrated creator) has such a large and devoted readership.
We begin with Rolf Carlé, the European refugee, journalist, and lover who figured so largely in her previous book. Lying in bed with Eva Luna, he asks her to tell him a story. “What about?” she asks. “Tell me a story you have never told anyone before. Make it up for me.” And so she does, giving Rolf Carlé and the reader twenty-three vibrant, enchanting demonstrations of her artistry. Here are campesinos and rich people, guerrillas and fortunetellers, great beauties and tyrants, the foreign rendered indelibly familiar. Here is Clarisa, “born before the city had electricity, she lived to see television coverage of the first astronaut levitating on the moon, and she died of amazement when the Pope came for a visit and was met in the street by homosexuals dressed up as nuns”; El Capitán, who waited forty years before proposing to his dancing partner; Horacio Fortunato, a circus owner and entrepreneur, whose encounter with a languid foreign woman will force him to change his roguish ways even as he attempts to court her; Maurizia Rugieri, who abandons her husband and child for a young medical student, converting their life together into an opera of her own design; Nicholás Vidal, who “had always known that a woman would cost him his life” but never suspected that it would be the wife of Judge Hidalgo; Riad Halabí (whom readers will remember from Eva Luna), once again displaying his concern and wisdom for the people of Agua Santa; and Marcia Lieberman, the wife of a European diplomat, whose brief affair with the President for Life of an unnamed Latin American country has startling rewards.
Love, vengeance, nostalgia, compassion, irony—Isabel Allende leaves no emotion untouched in these stories. Opulently imagined, stirringly told, they confirm once more her place as one of the world’s leading writers.