Saturday, 9 June 2018

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende
English language translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published by Flamingo in 2003.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Isabel Allende evokes the magnificent landscapes of her country; a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit; and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today.

The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer. And the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on her adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth an overdue acknowledgment that Allende had indeed left home. My Invented Country, mimicking the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance between past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants and to all of us who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.

I wasn't sure what to expect from My Invented Country as, at the time of reading, I hadn't yet read any of Isabel Allende's novels. What I got was gently nostalgic reminiscences of her childhood and adolescence, sprinkled with witty and sharp observations of not only Chile, but also Allende's adopted countries since the 1970s, primarily Venezuela and the USA, and the contrasts between them. I knew little, also, of Chile other than the name of Pinochet so was fascinated to learn insignificant details of daily life and the national culture, pre-Pinochet. Allende's love for the natural landscape comes across continually thoughout her memoir and she makes it sound like a fabulous country to tour. Could we get our caravan across the Atacama Desert do you think?

Allende's starting points for many of her reminiscences are members of her eccentric extended family, all of whom she admits are perfect fodder for a writer! I was irritated by abrupt stops where she would indicate that a tale had already been included in another work so she 'wouldn't repeat it here'. Now I have to go and buy more books! I am now very tempted by her first, The House Of The Spirits, especially as I learned how it came about.

Allende's criticisms of present-day Chile, its rampant commercialism and ostentatious shows of personal wealth were disappointing to read as perhaps now it is just becoming like everywhere else. This sentence: 'Freedom consists of having many brand names to choose from when you go out to buy on credit' was striking and made me wonder if I have already missed the opportunity to visit Chile as an individual country, perhaps such globalisation is more prevalent in Santiago. The divisions post-dictatorship are also saddening to read and I was interested by Allende's reasons for now living in the USA, a country which did so much to damage her beloved Chile.

Overall, My Invented Country is a diverting memoir, quite light overall and with a such meandering pace that sometimes I wondered where we were going to end up. However it has sparked an interest for me to discover both more of Allende's writing and more about Chile itself.

Etsy Find!
by Pigsey Art in
Texas, USA

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Books by Isabel Allende / Biography and memoir / Books from Chile


  1. It's been a while since I read a memoir.

    1. I like how Allende blends memoir with reportage

  2. It's great to learn about different places although this seemed to lack some focus. Great Review!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. I think it was a good starter and further reading could explore places in greater depth