In this luscious saga, Allende reaches beyond her previous novels (e.g., Eva Luna) in both space and time. In 19th-century Chile, a baby girl is left at the doorstep of Jeremy Sommers, director of the British Import and Export Company, Ltd., and his spinster sister, Rose. Rose raises Eliza to marry well and is understandably nonplussed when as a teenager she falls passionately in love with a poor clerk in the company. Eliza possesses all the feistiness and passion that Rose herself has suppressed, and when her somewhat indifferent lover heads north to San Francisco in search of gold, she follows, pregnant, disguised as a boy, and assisted by Tao Ch'ien, a Chinese doctor forced to work as a cook on a ship captained by John Sommers, brother to Jeremy and Rose. Not surprisingly, Eliza has some trouble locating her lover, but through a host of richly detailed adventures, she does find something more precious: freedom. Obvious and at times sentimental, this is still entertaining reading. For all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Allende expands her geographical boundaries in this sprawling, engrossing historical novel flavored by four culturesÄEnglish, Chilean, Chinese and AmericanÄand set during the 1849 California Gold Rush. The alluring tale begins in Valpara¡so, Chile, with young Eliza Sommers, who was left as a baby on the doorstep of wealthy British importers Miss Rose Sommers and her prim brother, Jeremy. Now a 16-year-old, and newly pregnant, Eliza decides to follow her lover, fiery clerk Joaqu¡n Andieta, when he leaves for California to make his fortune in the gold rush. Enlisting the unlikely aid of Tao Chi'en, a Chinese shipboard cook, she stows away on a ship bound for San Francisco. Tao Chi'en's own storyÄrichly textured and expansively toldÄbegins when he is born into a peasant family and sold into slavery, where it is his good fortune to be trained as a master of acupuncture. Years later, while tending to a sailor in colonial Hong Kong, he is shanghaied and forced into service at sea. During the voyage with Eliza, Tao nurses her through a miscarriage. When they disembark, Eliza is disguised as a boy, and she spends the next four years in male attire so she may travel freely and safely. Eliza's search for Joaqu¡n (rumored to have become an outlaw) is disappointing, but through an eye-opening stint as a pianist in a traveling brothel and through her charged friendship with Tao, now a sought-after healer and champion of enslaved Chinese prostitutes, Eliza finds freedom, fulfillment and maturity. Effortlessly weaving in historical background, Allende (House of the Spirits; Paula) evokes in pungent prose the great melting pot of early California and the colorful societies of Valpara¡so and Canton. A gallery of secondary characters, developed early on, prove pivotal to the plot. In a book of this scope, the narrative is inevitably top-heavy in spots, and the plot wears thin toward the end, but this is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure. Major ad/promo; BOMC dual main selection; 11-city author tour. (Oct.) FYI: This book will also be released in a HarperLibros Spanish edition, Hija del la Fortuna (ISBN 0-06-019492-8). Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.