Usually I run from Oprah's book picks for many reasons, but because she is a well known Latina author, I wanted to read Allende and judge for myself.
Her novel did not disappoint. For me, the time period and limited freedom for women was wonderfully demonstrated through Eliza. Women at that time were either properly married or whores. There was very little in- between.
The story begins in Chile in the late 1840s and Eliza is the adopted daughter of Rose Sommers a transplanted Englishwoman who is well-meaning but selfish. Unsure as to her parental origins, Eliza is an accepted part of the family but only on the fringes of their circle. Eliza grows up sheltered and later imagines that she has fallen in love with a noble young Chilean from the wrong side of the tracks.
Eventually, her lover leaves her to pursue his fortune during California's gold rush. Eliza follows him as a stowaway and finds her independence and clarity around her path in life during her search for her lost lover.
Lots of adventures and details, some of which could be seen as repetitive or impossible hence my four stars. However, for me the themes around love, freedom, family history, injustice, feminism, class and human dignity made it well worth a read.