cover image The Soul of a Woman

The Soul of a Woman

Isabel Allende. Ballantine, $22 (160p) ISBN 978-0-593-35562-6

Allende (A Long Petal of the Sea) presents a rich and intimate account of her lifelong commitment to feminism. For Allende, feminism is “a philosophical posture and a rising against male authority.” She further clarifies that patriarchy is “stony,” while feminism is fluid and “like the ocean, never stays quiet.” The book’s biographical details include Allende’s youthful fight for equality in sports; her early years as a journalist in Chile in the 1960s and ’70s; profiles of her beloved mother and chauvinist stepfather; and a tribute to legendary literary agent Carmen Balcells (“my mentor and my friend”), who helped Allende enter the male-dominated world of Latin American literature with the publication of her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, in 1982. Allende also memorializes her daughter, Paula, who died at age 29, and describes the foundation she started in Paula’s honor to “invest in the power of vulnerable women and girls.” Allende also discusses her three marriages and proudly takes on the mantle of “emboldened” grandmother: “We have nothing to lose and therefore are not easily scared.” This spirited call for women to continue fighting for “a joyful world” will resonate with Allende’s many fans. (Mar.)