Cover Image: The Soul of a Woman

The Soul of a Woman

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Member Reviews

Note: I loved this and it would be 5* if not for the proof missing large portions and being quite tricky to read!

This is a fantastically wise memoir on feminism, love, and womanhood.⁣ It was inspiring and eclectic, and I felt so fortunate to have imbibed some of the wisdom Allende has gathered over her 70 odd years of living furiously. 
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- ‘Feminism is not about replicating the disaster. It’s about mending it.’⁣
- ‘My mother used to say that the only regrets in our old age are the sins we didn’t commit and the things we didn’t buy.’⁣
- ‘With age, defects and virtues are exacerbated; we become more of what we always were.’ ⁣
- ‘Docility, praised as a feminine virtue, is our worst enemy; it has never served us well, it is only convenient for men.’ ⁣
- ‘In the twenty-first century women will change the nature of power instead of power changing the nature of women.’ ⁣
- ‘Life is a mapless road and we can’t go back. I had no control over the important events that determined my destiny or my personality.’ ⁣
- ‘I am letting go…letting go. I should have started earlier.’ ⁣
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#IsabelAllende #TheSoulofaWoman
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An interesting read which gives an insight into who Isabelle Allende is and what she cares most deeply about. Like some other readers, I found this early draft slightly tricky to read as sections were missing, so I did at times feel I was missing out and that the flow of the book was slightly lost.
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“When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating.” - Isabel Allende.

My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Soul of a Woman’ by Isabel Allende in exchange for an honest review.

Subtitled ‘Rebel Girls, Impatient Love and Long Life’, this short memoir is a powerful “meditation on feminism, power and what it means to be a woman.”

In ‘The Soul of a Woman’ rather than an in-depth autobiography, Isabel Allende touches upon the various stages of her life against the backdrop of feminism and a number of campaigns that have sought to highlight issues such as the #MeToo movement and those seeking to protect exploited women and girls throughout the world. As such, some sections were upsetting to read given their graphic nature but still very important to be aware of.

I was especially interested in her reflections upon ageing being in that category myself. She also writes about aspects of her writing that provided insight into her creative process. 

Over the years I have enjoyed a number of Isabel Allende’s novels though realised that I knew very little about her life. So I was glad to have the opportunity to change that. 

Overall, this proved an inspiring memoir written with warmth and passion.
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Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book.

I’ve read and enjoyed some of Isabel Allende’s fictional works and hadn’t realised this was non-fiction. Interesting but not really my style sorry!
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I love Isabel Allende's fiction which I find masterful, passionate and gripping. So I was looking forward to this non-fiction account about women, power and feminism.

However, I did find it too rambling and conversational for my liking - it never really seemed to go anywhere and I found myself skipping bits as they were just dull. I'll go back to the fiction!
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Sadly I was unable to read this ecopy ads there were to many misiing sections and errors in the text. Such a shame as I am huge IA fan, nbut there are too many books to read to struggle on. Will wait to purchase a hard copy.
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The Soul of a Woman is  biographical and ponders power, feminism and what it means to a woman.  Isabel Allende is one of my favourite authors and this sweep gives excellent insight into the narrative behind her fiction.
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In The Soul of a Woman, Allende reminisces on her life as a woman, in terms of her upbringing, her education, her career, her ageing and her role as a mother. Succinctly written in captivating prose, Allende captures what feminism means to her and how both the men and women in her lives have shaped her understanding of her 'place' in the world. Filled with personal anecdotes, the book allows you to follow one (fairly remarkable) woman's discovery of place and purpose that will resonate with many readers. A joy to read, with Allende's delicate touch as she examines the nature of male/female relationships in all their forms, perhaps most poignantly in her affection towards her father.
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A non fiction book from Isabel Allende, but still with the appealing warmth, intelligence and style of her other writing, of which this reviewer has long been a fan. This is a meditation on Allende’s long life, and in particular her experiences of feminism and the place of women in the world. Don’t let that put you off, as this is a book we should all read, men and women, as her view of the world and its future, although occasionally bleak, is always approachable and clearly justified. I loved the writing about her own experiences and those of her grandmother, mother and daughter and how they have influenced her own life. This is a short and undemanding read in style, and will give us all food for thought on the future of our planet and the place of women in making that future more positive.
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A little bit hard to read this as it seemed to be an early draft.  However I am enamoured with Isabelle she is one of my most favourite authors an amazing inspiring lady.  Her grand mother and her home and her life as well as the characters from her other hooks all seem to be living on the pages I loved it.. thank you
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This is the book we all need to read, this is a book we all need to pass to our brothers, husbands and fathers, they need to read this as much as our daughters and sisters nieces and mothers.
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In The Soul of a Woman, the almost 80-year-old Chilean-American author invites us to accompany her on this personal and emotional journey where she reviews her connection with feminism from childhood until today. In this part memoir, part polemic, she remembers some of the essential women in her life, her mother Panchita—who she saw become dependent on men after she was abandoned by Isabel’s father with three small children when Isabel was only in kindergarten and was forced to move back in with her parents’ in Santiago, Paula—her daughter who sadly died at 29-years-old and whom she beautifully memorialises in rich prose, and the literary agent Carmen Balcells—a legend in publishing circles who helped guide Allende through the male-dominated landscape of Latin American literature and supported the release of her first published book; relevant writers such as Virginia Woolf or Margaret Atwood; to young artists who agglutinate the rebellion of their generation or, among many others, to those anonymous women who have suffered violence and who, full of dignity and courage, stand up, advance and thrive. They are the ones who inspire Isabel immensely and have accompanied her throughout her life: her women of the soul. 

Finally, she also reflects on the #MeToo movement —which she supports and celebrates—, on the recent social unrest in her country of origin and, of course, on the new situation that we are experiencing globally with the pandemic. All this without losing that unmistakable passion for life and insisting that, regardless of age, there is always time for love. Isabel Allende delves into her memory and offers us an exciting book about her relationship with feminism and the true beauty of being a woman, while she claims that adult life must be lived, felt and enjoyed with full intensity. It's captivating, insightful and with a singular charm it engages through its abundance of wisdom and warmth. The memoir of a self-proclaimed romantic feminist couldn't have arrived at a more timely juncture and provides a rich and deeply personal account of the lifelong passion she has dedicated to progressing the feminist cause, including co-founding the feminist magazine Paula in 1967 and her fight for equality in sport. Allende is an inspiration who is, and always has been, a vocal opposer of patriarchal society and her many fights for the imposition of egalitarian ideals are detailed throughout the book enticingly interwoven with her history. Highly recommended.
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This is  a lovely warm book that reads like a stream of consciousness chat it would be amazing to have with Isabel Allende in person. She reveals some of her life and how she feels her feminist beliefs developed and she talks about the dangers and issues facing women today. As her fiction has developed I've particularly enjoyed the way she writes about getting old from the vantage point of having done it, and I hope she continues to write fiction and non-fiction for many years to come, bringing her insights and experience to us all.
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The Soul of a Woman

"We have to love ourselves a lot and love others without calculating how much we are loved in return. This is the stage of kindness."

The Soul of a Woman is part memoir, part discussion of feminism where Allende talks about love, loss, passion and sense of self.

I thought some of the most interesting aspects were when Allende spoke about her age and the way older women are viewed and behaved. She spoke about how she lacks the same concerns she did when she was younger about competing, people pleasing, looking good. How she is less afraid. How we have a generation of older women raised in an era of emerging feminism and women's rights who are passing on this legacy to their children and grandchildren.

Allende is incredibly self-assured and it gave me great comfort to see a woman so comfortable in her older age. Comfortable in her sense of self and awareness. Allende talks about how she is still learning; how her grandchildren have made her think about personal pronouns, how she has witnessed great changes in her time.

I feel like the voices of older women are so often silenced and so this was great to read in that sense. 

"Age should not limit our energy or creativity or our willingness to participate in the world."

My problem with the book lay in some of Allende's comments on feminism which felt a little generic and off-hand at times particularly on the subject of the burka and how women wear it purely out of fear of men. This seemed to contrast with her more careful attitudes towards sexuality and gender pronouns and was disappointing to see. And whilst this is part memoir examing Allende's relationship with feminism. I found some of this generalisations did not hit the mark right and some of them were problematic when she spoke about wider feminism. The book as a whole also felt a little disjointed and unplanned which could be because I read an uncorrected proof.

Overall I was little disappointed with this one and whilst I loved Allende's fire and her writing style so will definitely be picking up her novels. I couldn't appreciate all she said.

Thanks to netgalley and Bloomsbury for the uncorrected proof.
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“While other girls worried about their appearance and how to attract boys, I was preaching socialism and feminism. No wonder I had no friends.” Isabel Allende’s memoir The Soul of a Woman is a delightful short read that shares with the reader Allende’s words of wisdom on feminism, oppression, and growing older. 
“And what is my definition of feminism? It is not what we have between our legs but what we have between our ears.” 
Not only do we hear snippets of Allende’s childhood in machismo Chile, the relationship with her elders and her fierce motivations to fight for equality from a young age. We are also introduced to many incredible women, movements and charities that are transforming the lives of others across the globe. 
“I don’t need to invent the protagonists in my books, this strong and determined women, because I am surrounded by the likes of them.”
Truly transcendent this work spans continents, addresses the varying situations of many women across the globe through anecdotes and real life stories.
“You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
 Allende’s spirit for life, advocacy for change and self-depreciating humour make this lockdown work a treat to read.
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Described as "a meditation on power, feminism and what it means to be a woman" by literary legend Isabel Allende, I was super excited to dive into this memoir. As someone who's taken part in the first wave of feminism, proved herself as a fierce woman journalist and one of the first Chilean women writers to gain popularity, Allende is a force of a woman. ⁠
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The beginning starts very strong: "When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating," she writes. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children. Her grandfather played a big part in her upbringing too, and even though he was a traditional and strict man, he had a soft spot for Isabel. She went on to become a defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn't have.⁠
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I thoroughly enjoyed these parts of the book. It's the "becoming", the "coming-of-age" that we are all eager to discover in memoirs. Allende is only a few years older than my parents and I enjoyed reading about the 1960s, and even though Chile is a completely different culture to the one my parents (and I, for that matter) grew up in, it hints at the times. ⁠
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The bulk of the first half of the book talks about Isabel's reckoning with old age, how she embraced it and despite the slowing down, she determinedly lives her life with full lungs. ⁠
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She also talks about her marriages and how she came to find (or better yet, it found her) love in her 70s and deciding to give a third marriage a go. ⁠
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In the second half of the book, Isabel talks about her foundation that helps women get medical help with abortion and recounts a personal story from her youth that led her to be extremely passionate about this subject. 

According to Allende, what women want can be summed up thus: to be safe, to be valued, to live in peace, to have their own resources, to be connected, to have control over their bodies and lives, and above all, to be loved.She ends with a call-to-arms to the young generations of women to "carry on the work still left to be finished". 

The memoir has all the right ingredients, and yet sadly, I found it underwhelming. I would have loved to hear more personal anecdotes and less (oftentimes) empty tropes about feminism; more specific, less generic. It's a worthwhile read if you are a super fan of Isabel Allende's work and want to discover a few details about her life. 

The Soul of a Woman is out next week, on 2nd March. 

Thanks to Bloombsbury Publishing and NetGalley for my advanced digital copy.
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Isabelle Allende will be 80 in 2022.  In this short non-fiction book she meditates on her life and political ideals.  As a prolific novelist and humanitarian, the book is wide-ranging in topics and centres largely on the rights of woman.  A feminist since the age of five, this desire is embedded from within the loving but patriarchal family life with her mother and siblings in the home of her grandfather and then stepfather.   There are reflections on how things have improved in the world in some quarters and where remarkable women have made positive impacts of the lives of other women (including a very personal story).  This is a definite read for fans of Isabelle Allende and for those interested in socIal, political and world affairs.
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Isabel Allende is a remarkable author who has led a very interesting life, The Soul of a Woman is like sitting down and having a conversation with her. Her thoughts don't just cover feminism, they include gender, aging, youth and poverty across the world and regardless of your age or gender you can relate to them. 

I was given a copy of The Soul of a Woman by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
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Having read her most recent novel, only last year, I was intrigued by the prospect of reading Isabel Allende’s memoir, The Soul of a Woman. I had enjoyed The Long Petal of the Sea a great deal and looked forward to discovering more about an author whose work I had finally come to admire through first-hand experience rather than from merely being aware of her formidable reputation. 

As someone who can be described with frankly depressing accuracy as “pale, male and stale” it is probably fair to say that I have not been as informed as I should have been about the women’s movement in general. Yet even I, who has been fully aware of the impact of the Russian revolution and the rise and fall of communism in the twentieth century and that of the digital revolution in more recent years, have not failed to recognise that the feminist revolution that has taken place over the last century and a half has had a more profound and far-reaching effect on the lives of us all than either of these. And during a long and active life Isabel Allende has been at the forefront of this revolution.

Allende tells us that she has been feminist since she was in kindergarten. This, I think, is because she grew up witnessing her mother’s experience as a single mother (her father had abandoned the family when she was very young) at a time when Chilean society was deeply conservative and rigidly patriarchal. Allende’s mother did what she had to do in such a society to ensure that her children were properly provided for. In truth, she chose well trading freedom for security to provide a stepfather willing and able to support and protect her children.

In this book Allende often mentions machismo and, of course, this is because it was the dominant form of male behaviour across South America when she was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. For men at that time machismo represented honour, bravery, dominance, and sexual prowess. For Allende it is associated with the patriarchy and male violence and chauvinism. Men at that time believed it was their role to protect and provide for their families but to give the orders; the role of women was to serve, to care for their families and to obey.  It is this form of society that Allende’s mother lived and acquiesced in and the society that Allende herself reacted against from a young age, defiant, obstinate and with a visceral hatred for male chauvinism.  

In the 1960s she was finally able to channel her considerable energies into journalism and help bring the feminist revolution and the fight against the patriarchy to Chile. She worked on the feminist magazine “Paula” challenging attitudes to all sorts of taboos, such as abortion, contraception, and prostitution, questioning sacred ideas such as motherhood, and shining a light on issues that until then were rarely spoken of such as domestic violence or female infidelity. 

For Allende women are powerful because they have, much more than men, empathy, solidarity, and resilience. It is women that create life while it seems men destroy life – destruction is a masculine trait. This is something of a simplification but perhaps an understandable one when one considers the society that Allende is a product of. Men are capable of empathy, solidarity, and resilience but the nature of patriarchal societies perhaps works against the development of such traits in men in many parts of the world. Violence against the person though does appear to be an overwhelmingly male trait – 90% of violent crime is committed by men. Men are encouraged to repress their emotions and are limited by a straitjacket of masculinity. In truth, the feminist movement, by working to enable women to be ambitious, competitive, powerful, erotic, and self-confident, is also working to free men from the constraints and limitations placed upon them by the patriarchy. By being made to give up the control men can be free of the fear, the uncertainties, and the insecurities that their machismo is hiding. 

Allende sees her generation as a transitional one: the bridge between her mother’s generation who had little, if any, hope for change and the generations of women that have followed her own and who continue to make progress. She has dedicated a great deal of her time and resources throughout her adult life to the cause of women around the world, working with a foundation dedicated to empowering vulnerable women and girls. 

This memoir also contains much about Allende’s life and loves. It also contains her thoughts on the experience of ageing noting that while the body will deteriorate the person within the body can be reborn and become less angry, more passionate about the important things in life, and learn to understand that there is no longer have anything to prove and that to be vulnerable is not a weakness.     

Sylvia Plath is said to have commented that her greatest tragedy was to have been born a woman. Isabel Allende appears to have spent much of her life demonstrating in no uncertain terms that that was not the case for her. That with determination and a lot of hard work, it was possible for a woman of her generation to break down the barriers and to live a life that is as independent and fulfilled as any man. The energy and passion for life and the cause of women and the oppressed in general that is on display in this fascinating book should be an inspiration to many women of the generations that follow hers; and to quite a few men as well. 

I would like to express my thanks to Net Galley and Bloomsbury Publishing for making a free download of this book available to me.
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Well I absolutely love isabel allende and the imagery she creates within her books. This book lived up to every expectation i have of her and i think she keeps getting better and better. Beautiful read.
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