Isabel Allender, described by many as “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author”, has become one of the most celebrated and highly-praised writers on the planet ever since writing her first novel, The House Of The Spirits, back in 1982.
With that being said, it can be a little difficult to know exactly where to start when getting into her work, considering Isabel Allende has over 20 books published, all of which have received rave reviews, and while they are certainly all worth a read, some do stand out from the rest and are considered must-buys for anyone wanting to experience Allende’s best work.
Here are 7 of Isabel Allende’s very best books that you should definitely consider reading if you want to learn what all the hype is about.
7 Best Isabel Allende Books You Should Read
While Isabel Allende has an incredible catalog of books to her name, there are a select few that most fans would agree are classed as the “essential” reads, and those are the books that we’re going to take a look at right now.
The Japanese Lover
In this globe-trotting story set during the beginning of World War 2, we follow Alma Belasco, a young Polish woman sent to San Francisco by her parents to escape the terror of Nazi occupation.
When Alma has a chance encounter with Ichimei, the handsome and charismatic son of a Japanese gardener, their relationship starts to develop as the two try to establish a new life away from their home countries which have both become engulfed in the war, but after the shocking Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they must try to maintain their relationship amidst the tension and destruction of war.
- Many different perspectives on WW2 are shown throughout the story.
- Multiple different locations are visited including Poland, San Francisco, and Japan.
- The stakes always feel very high.
- Alma and Ichimei’s relationship develops naturally without feeling forced.
- Many of the side characters don’t feel relevant to the plot.
Of Love And Shadows
You won’t find a reporter more passionate and determined in their role as a spokesperson for the people than Irene Beltran, a young woman who directs all of her energy towards bringing down the oppressive regime that has inspired only violence and aggression across her nation for most of her life.
The further Irene looks into the regime, the more she and her companions learn about their abhorrent actions as she becomes even more determined in her mission to expose these horrors to the population, even if an unlikely romance could distract her in the process.
- A very intense and sympathetic story about injustice and fairness within society.
- Irene is a very compelling and realistic protagonist.
- The romance subplot still feels relevant to the wider story.
- The third act is full of a lot of unnecessary filler that doesn’t relate to the plot.
Portrait In Sepia
Many people would label Aurora del Valle as privileged, after all, she does live in a very wealthy environment surrounded by relatives and friends who are all well-established and ready to support Aurora in any of her ventures, but what many of these judgmental outsiders don’t know is that this young woman actually has no recollection of the first five years of her life.
When she is tormented by her horrible nightmares, Aurora starts to suspect that they may be signifying something, prompting her to take a deeper look into her past to understand who she really is in this thrilling story about self-acceptance and childhood trauma.
- A very honest and respectful story centered around overcoming past trauma.
- The mystery of Aurora’s past remains intense and unpredictable throughout.
- All of the side characters feel relevant.
- Aurora goes through a lot of development and growth.
- Some incredibly emotional and unexpected reveals.
- Some of the comedic sections can feel a little out of place.
- The pacing is quite inconsistent.
It may be her most recent novel, but Violeta is written with all of the grace and beauty that made Isabel Allende’s first novels so memorable back when she first started rising in popularity.
The story follows Violeta, an astonishingly beautiful young woman who must try to protect herself, and her family, from the onslaught of uncontrollable events that have swept over all of South America, including the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and the violent civil political turmoil that has plagued her country for decades.
If you’re looking for a hopeful story that manages to become more exciting and emotional after each and every page, then Violeta is definitely a book you should consider picking up today.
- A fascinating look at the consequences of uncontrollable events.
- Very clearly written with all the terminology being well explained.
- The family dynamic between Violeta and her relatives feels very real.
- Some subplots can feel quite unnecessary to the wider plot.
The House Of The Spirits
When Isabel Allende first came out with The House Of The Spirits back in 1982, no one was expecting the story to be as grand, ambitious, and compelling as it turned out to be.
Allende manages to tell the story of three different generations of the Trueba family and their role in their country’s revolutionary future.
Often labeled as one of the most important novels of the 20th century, this enthralling tale is one that is guaranteed to linger in your mind long after you finish the last page.
- Multiple characters from different generations keep the story engaging and fresh from start to finish.
- The perfect mix of emotional and action-packed segments.
- A very satisfying ending.
- The pacing is very slow, to begin with.
Island Beneath The Sea
Being born into a life of slavery, Tt has faced an incredibly harsh and violent childhood, having no memory of her parents and slowly losing hope that she’ll ever be able to escape captivity.
Her luck seems to change however when she meets 20-year-old Toulouse Valmorain, a young and ambitious man who has been placed into the position of running his father’s plantation, a position he finds extremely difficult to adjust to.
This man could just be Tt’s key to finally becoming free, but how much is she willing to sacrifice to make that dream a reality?
- The relationship between Tt and Toulouse is very complex and multi-layered.
- The story has very honest themes about human cruelty and discrimination.
- Plenty of gut-punching revelations.
- The cast of characters is quite limited.
Beautiful, disturbing, and elegant all at the same time, Isabel Allende’s take on the tale of the good-hearted and charming swordsman Zorro is a passionate story that never becomes boring, especially as we get to learn more about Zorro and his real intentions as the story progresses.
This is a quick and easy read that may not be as intense as many of Allende’s other books but is still packed with just as much emotion and all of the beautiful wordplay that makes her novels so enjoyable.
- Zorro is a fascinating character with a great backstory.
- Every side character receives development and attention.
- There are plenty of thrilling action scenes.
- The ending is quite disappointing and lackluster compared to the rest of the story.
Whether you’re a new reader of Isabel Allende or someone who’s just looking for a well-written and exciting story to sink your teeth into, you’re not going to want to miss out on reading through some of these essential and must-read books by one of the most highly acclaimed authors in the world.
How To Choose The Right Isabel Allende Book?
While all of Isabel Allende’s books are beautifully written and very memorable, some of her more ambitious books tend to be quite a bit longer than the others, so you will want to choose a book depending on how big and complex you like your stories to be.
As someone who personally experienced the coup and revolutions that rocked Chile throughout the 1970s, Isabel Allende will include a lot of references to her experience within her stories, with many of her books, therefore, containing a lot of political intrigue and revolutionary aspects.
However, with that being said, some of her shorter stories tend to steer away from the political side of things, so this should always be a deciding factor when choosing what to read.
Isabel Allende may be well-known as an author, but you would think she’s actually a historian because of how effortlessly she describes the setting of certain time periods, and how accurate she is with her retelling of certain events and individuals.
Whether Allende is writing about the courageous adventure of a slave in 18th century America or a blossoming but troubled romance in the midst of World War 2, she is an author who gives you so much choice when it comes to time periods.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is Isabel Allende’s Next Book Coming Out?
While advertising her latest book Violeta in 2022, Isabel Allende stated that she had also written a novel alongside Violeta that is currently being translated and is estimated to hit shelves in mid-2023.
Allende has come out and said that this will be another novel centered around the struggle of refugees, although she hasn’t given any other details about the new book as of yet.
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