Book review: ‘Daughter of Fortune’ by Isabel Allende

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Eliza Sommers is being raised by Rose and Jeremy Sommers in Valparaiso, Chile. She was found at their doorstep, an apparently abandoned baby. She was obviously of English heritage, as were the Sommers.

The Sommers were at the top of the social hierarchy in the English establishment in Valparaiso. Whether English or Spanish, there was a definite social structure in Chile in the 1800s. The Sommers were clearly high society. Though Eliza was not formally of the family, her “Aunt Rose” was raising her as though she was, thus her education and Rose’s plan of an advantageous marriage.

The marriage plans came to naught when Rose fell madly in love with Jaoquin Andieta, an extremely handsome common laborer. And Eliza’s plans were thrown asunder when Joaquin came under the spell of the California Gold Rush of 1849. In his mind, he would have much more to offer Rose, and importantly, her family, if the reported gold made him a rich man. Thus, off to California he sailed.

What’s a determined girl in love going to do but follow him? That’s where a Chinese doctor named Tao Chi’en comes in. Since he is not licensed to practice, he is presently employed as a ship’s cook; it’s in that role that he is able to smuggle Eliza on board and keep her hidden (a grueling trial for Eliza) for the duration of the trip.

California, then and now, is a big place. Since the ship Eliza arrived on landed in San Francisco, and it was a key starting point for many of the prospective prospectors, that’s where Eliza started looking for her “brother.” Afraid to leave Eliza alone in her weakened condition, Tao Chi’en also stayed in San Francisco and became essential in Eliza’s search. For a young woman to exist in a society of single men and prostitutes, it became necessary for Eliza to become Tao’s deaf and dumb brother. Much of her Gold Rush search for her lover was necessarily as a young male.

Allende presents an interesting picture of California’s gold rush. Made clear is the cruel treatment of the Chinese and the Hispanics by the “Yanquis.” Also clear is the harsh reality of life in California at the time. To say the least, it was a troublesome existence. The people who got rich were seldom the miners. Those enterprising enough to supply the wants and needs did well.

As often happens with me, it took me a while to get engaged in the adventure described. Initially Eliza’s life in Chile didn’t hold my interest. But her life there has a lot to do with the plot.

The author does considerable foreshadowing in the book. I thought it might spoil the ending. My experience was that it actually made me anxious to get to the end to see if it came out like I thought it would.

Comments are closed.

  • Book review: ‘Money in the Morgue’ by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

    May 27th, 2020
    by

    When the story opens, Detective Chief-Inspector Alleyn, of the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of Scotland Yard, is in New Zealand on a secret mission.


    Tri-Parish to begin offering Masses on Pentecost weekend

    May 27th, 2020
    by

    Public Masses are coming again! Bishop Callahan has given permission for weekend Mass to once again be offered publicly beginning on Pentecost weekend, May 30–31.


    Book review: ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen

    May 21st, 2020
    by

    To properly appreciate “Northanger Abbey,” you must realize that the gothic novel (atmosphere of mystery and horror) was being widely read at the time Austen wrote the novel. It is commonly accepted that it was written as satire to that format.


    Brookwood senior parade is Friday

    May 18th, 2020
    by

    Friday, May 22, would have been Brookwood High School students’ graduation ceremony, and to recognize our seniors, we’re hosting a senior parade Friday night.


    Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will offer pick-up/drop-off dates for student materials

    May 15th, 2020
    by

    The Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will have pick-up/drop-off days for student materials from May 28–30.


  • Book review: ‘Rooster Bar’ by John Grisham

    May 13th, 2020
    by

    Foggy Bottom was a for-profit law school in Washington D.C.


    Celebrating dairy: Individuals, organizations donate to school lunch programs

    May 13th, 2020
    by

    A flurry of dairy donations has been made to local schools over the past few weeks.


    Brookwood blood drive will be at Wilton Community Center

    May 6th, 2020
    by

    The Wednesday, May 13, Red Cross blood drive hosted by the Brookwood High School FFA will now be held at the Wilton Community Center.


    Book review: ‘Us Against You’ by Fredrik Backman (translator Neil Smith)

    May 5th, 2020
    by

    “Beartown” introduces us to a hockey town, and not just any hockey town, but a relatively small, rural community in the forests of Sweden that has been a hockey town to be reckoned with in the past.


    Wilton woman sentenced to probation for selling narcotic prescription medications

    May 1st, 2020
    by

    Karri Jo Asselin, 44, of Wilton was sentenced on April 28 in Monroe County Circuit Court to four years of probation for manufacturing/deliver schedule I, II narcotics/party to a Crime.


    Book review: ‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ by Olga Tokarczuk

    April 29th, 2020
    by

    Janina Duszeijko is a retired bridge building engineer who lives on a mountain plateau near the Czech Republic.


  • Archives