Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Maya's Notebook - Isabel Allende

I love Isabel Allende's writing. Island Beneath the Sea is one of the few books I've read twice. Allende excels at historical fiction, but in her latest book Maya's Notebook, she moves into present day with a young protagonist.

Abandoned by her mother and with a father always away at work, Maya has been raised by her beloved grandparents Popo and Nini in Berkeley, California. The house is filled with noise, life, colour, friends and most of all - love. But when her grandfather Popo dies, Maya loses it. She turns to drugs, alcohol and crime. This downward spiral finally spits her out in Las Vegas where she sinks even lower and is in great danger - there are many want her dead. Nini sees one last chance to save Maya - she spirits her away to ChiloĆ© - a remote island off the coast of Chile - Nini's homeland.

It is while exiled on the island that Maya begins to put her story to paper. We are privy to Maya's feelings, emotions and memories from the past and her hopes, dreams and struggle with the present to understand and reclaim her life.

Ahh, what can I say. Allende has yet again created characters that are so well drawn I feel I would know them if I met them walking down the street. The love, the loss and the emotions of her characters was tangible - I felt like a relative or friend was pouring their heart out and sharing their pain. Her prose are always evocative.

"Happiness is slippery, it slithers away between your fingers, but problems are something you can hold on to, they've got handles, they're rough and hard.

The narrative flips between past and present, with a little more revealed each chapter. I love this method of storytelling - it's addictive. (and always keeps me up late, reading just one more chapter)

The setting is spectacular  - the island and its inhabitants play a major role in the book and Maya's life. Allende is familiar with the island and that personal knowledge makes a difference. I learned much about Chilean culture and history as well.

It was after finishing the book that I learned Allende had poured much of her own life into Maya's notebook. Her own family has suffered the loss of more than one child to drugs. Some scenes, dialogue, characters and situations have been pulled from her own experiences. Watch the video below to hear Allende discuss her work. Read an excerpt of Maya's Notebook.

"Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of many bestselling novels, including, most recently, Island Beneath the SeaInes of My Soul, Zorro, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. She has also written a collection of stories; three memoirs, The Sum of Our Days, My Invented Country, and Paula; and a trilogy of young adult novels. Her books have been translated into more than 27 languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Allende lives in California." You can find Allende on Facebook.

I enjoyed Maya's Notebook, but given a choice, I prefer her historical works. See what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.


Becca said...

Isbabel Allende is one of those authors whom just seem like they are on a whole 'nother plane than us little people. Her writing is so nuanced and deep. I couldn't finish Daughter of Fortune when I read it in 2008 because I felt like the story wasn't moving fast enough for me, however, I am one to often give books I have read another chance. Allende is one of those whom I want to try again. Perhaps I will give this one a try as well. It might make me an Allende convert. :)

bermudaonion said...

I've heard so much about Allende's writing and listened to an interview of her once so I'm very anxious to read this.

Mary said...

Oh yes! This is a must read, and i'm going out to Powell's this afternoon to get. Thank you so much for this greatv review! :)

Christa @ More Than Just Magic said...

I love Isabelle Allende's writing. I've always found it so beautiful and moving. I haven't read one of her books in years so I'm really looking forward to reading this soon!

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

I honestly don't think I've heard of Isabelle Allende before this book, but the way you talk about her writing is definitely my type of book. I've been intrigued every time I see this book somewhere and I just want to grab it. I think that telling a story by flipping between past and present is always interesting, it keeps me coming back to the book to learn more.

Isi said...

I have read a lot of Allende's novels, but I began to feel they were more or less the same, so I stopped reading her books. My mother has all of them (in Spanish, of course), including this one, so perhaps I would give it a try, since the plot is soooo different to the others.
Glad you like it!

trish said...

Wow, that's so interesting that this book is so personal for her! I wonder if writing it was healing for her?

Anyway, thanks for being on the tour!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

"The love, the loss and the emotions of her characters was tangible - I felt like a relative or friend was pouring their heart out and sharing their pain."

This was my first Allende but for this very reason, it will not be my last. Now that I'm finished with the book, I actually miss the characters :( Not necessarily that I wish there was a sequel...just miss them as people :) That's a magical book for sure.
Enjoyed your review!