Summary and book reviews of Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Daughter of Fortune

by Isabel Allende

Daughter of Fortune
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1999, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2000, 400 pages

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Book Summary

A sweeping portrait of the era of the Californian Gold Rush, a story rich in character, history, violence, and compassion.

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.

Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

Everyone is born with some special talent, and Eliza Sommers discovered early on that she had two: a good sense of smell and a good memory. She used the first to earn a living and the second to recall her life-if not in precise detail, at least with an astrologer's poetic vagueness. The things we forget may as well never have happened, but she had many memories, both real and illusory, and that was like living twice. She used to tell her faithful friend, the sage Tao Chi'en, that her memory was like the hold of the ship where they had come to know one another: vast and somber, bursting with boxes, barrels, and sacks in which all the events of her life were jammed. Awake it was difficult to find anything in that chaotic clutter, but asleep she could, just as Mama Fresia had taught her in the gentle nights of her childhood, when the contours of reality were as faint as a tracery of pale ink. She entered the place of her dreams along a much traveled path and returned treading very...

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Plot Summary

Can we control our own destinies? What does it take to change the course of our lives so that we may pursue our dreams? And how do we know that our decisions are the right ones, especially if we hurt others or ourselves in the process? These are the questions posed by Isabel Allende's fascinating story of bravery and passion, of a young woman's incredible journey from one world to another, from innocence to wisdom. Born into a 19th-century society that values birthright above character, Eliza Sommers is at a startling disadvantage. An orphan of unknown heritage, Eliza is raised in the British colony of Valpara’so, Chile, by the Victorian spinster Rose Sommers and her brother Jeremy. She is not even sure how she ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Boston Globe

An intricate novel by a fine storyteller....Once the reader submits to her wizardry, a florid, detailed universe of hopes and lust, of class struggle and quarreling individual identities, unfolds.

Publishers Weekly

A gallery of secondary characters, developed early on, prove pivotal to the plot. In a book of this scope, the narrative is inevitably top-heavy in spots, and the plot wears thin toward the end, but this is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure.

Kirkus Reviews

Allende's first novel in six years delivers her gentle, often plush style at extravagant length to tell the life of Eliza Sommers, a Chilean woman who immigrates to San Francisco in the 1840s....Allende has clearly enjoyed providing rich elaborations that don't particularly advance the story here but affirm her theme of personal discovery. Each of her characters finds "something different from what we were looking for." With this novel, the same may not be said of readers who enjoy Allende's fiction.

The Washington Post

Like a slow, seductive lover, Allende teases, tempts and titillates with mesmerizing stories.

Reader Reviews

Sarah

I'm 17, and I read this book twice. I thought it was very well written, and I was able to learn something about an era that I wasn't familiar with. It is a very detailed novel, and the plot was very well developed. I would recommend this novel to ...   Read More

Sabdy

This book was amazing! I was asked to read it for my Spanish class, and as soon as I saw the cover, I knew that this book would be different. I also knew that I wouldn't appreciate it the way I wanted to if I read it in Spanish, therefore I read it...   Read More

lauren curren

thanks the book was wonderful i liked it alot.......

Jessica

i'm a teenager girl, who always hated reading until, my english teacher made us search for books of dreams! when i saw the cover on Daught of fortune, i notices that the cover wasn't like the others(i judge the book by its cover)! I now love to read ...   Read More

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