#TheEverygirlReads: Unexpected Lessons Learned From ‘Daughter of Fortune’

We’ve heard the adage again and again, so much so that it’s become a cliché: Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

The popular phrase is usually meant metaphorically, but in this particular instance there’s nothing metaphoric about it: I judge ACTUAL books by their covers. I’m book shallow. A cover snob, if you will. 

Which is why I was hesitant to read Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortunethe cover made me assume it was a silly, torrid period drama about some kept Victorian woman. 

But I was wrong. I WAS SO WRONG. 

Daughter of Fortune follows Eliza, a Chilean-English woman born out of wedlock and adopted into a wealthy white family living in the English colony in 19th-century Chile. Her early life is sheltered and privileged, contrasting starkly with the lives of Chileans, who are navigating the consequences of oppressive colonization and made to feel inferior in their own country. 

Her life of comfort ends abruptly when she finds herself on a ship bound for California during the early stages of San Francisco’s gold rush. 

The book fearlessly tackles the hugely relevant issues of today’s social and political climate.

The book was first published in 1999, but it fearlessly tackles the hugely relevant issues of today’s social and political climate: race, class, colonialism, sex, gender roles as social constructs. They are all included, and weaved together in a style that is compelling, imaginative, and, at some points, wonderfully blunt.

I do need to address one very controversial topic: the book’s ending. Most people I’ve spoken with hate it. My first reaction was to hate it as well, but in the week or so I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve come to appreciate its brilliance. Allende’s complete rejection of the “Hollywood ending” makes the story all the more raw, real, and generally true to the book’s themes. (I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t read it yet, but if you’re already looped in on what happens, definitely reach out on Twitter so we can discuss.) 

I’m so happy the book introduced me to author Isabel Allende, who is a brilliant writer, unapologetic feminist, and all-around badass woman whose prose is often compared to the legendary Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (and in my opinion, she’s the better).

What’s next? 

For the month of May, I’m going to be reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, which has popped up as a New York Times bestseller since the beginning of the year. This article from the New Yorker describe Groff’s writing as lyrical and poignant, and I’m looking forward to reading the depiction of a real modern day “seemingly successful” marriage from both the husband and wife’s point of view. 

As always, read along with me (or comment to tell me the book you’re currently reading!) and definitely reach out on Twitter and Instagram (@DarylUnlost) to talk all things literature. Be sure to use #TheEverygirlReads so fellow readers can follow the conversation!  

Happy reading, Everygirls!

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