Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

About this book

Orphaned at birth, Eliza Sommers is raised in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile, by the well-intentioned Victorian spinster Miss Rose and her more rigid brother Jeremy. Just as she meets and falls in love with the wildly inappropriate Joaquín Andieta, a lowly clerk who works for Jeremy, gold is discovered in the hills of northern California. By 1849, Chileans of every stripe have fallen prey to feverish dreams of wealth. Joaquín takes off for San Francisco to seek his fortune, and Eliza, pregnant with his child, decides to follow him. As we follow her spirited heroine on a perilous journey north in the hold of a ship to the rough-and-tumble world of San Francisco and northern California, we enter a world whose newly arrived inhabitants are driven mad by gold fever. A society of single men and prostitutes among whom Eliza moves–with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chien–California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence for the young Chilean. Her search for the elusive Joaquín gradually turns into another kind of journey that transforms her over time, and what began as a search for love ends up as the conquest of personal freedom.

Review by Hayling Readers’ Group:

This fast-paced historical drama follows the fortune of a strong heroine. Driven by love, she leaves her home in Chile and is caught up in the extreme hardships of the California Goldrush. This very enjoyable read is highly recommended.

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8 thoughts on “Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende”

  1. Review by Queen Mary’s College Library Reading Group:
    We liked this book with its interesting non-European take on American history. There are wonderful descriptions of 19th century South American and US culture and strong characterisation which unusually in this kind of historical novel manages to defy stereotypes.
    Rating: Highly recommended.


  2. Review by U3A Book Circle 3 reading group:
    For once, the whole group enjoyed this book. Historically interesting and believable characters well drawn. Combination of romance, excitement and history. Highly recommended in book circles
    Star rating: ****


  3. Review by Boater’s Boat Club:
    Generally enjoyed with interesting historical facts, reflections on society and characterisations. However, it was considered unbelievable and to cover too many story lines.
    Star rating: ** to ***


  4. Review by Hawkley Book Group:
    We enjoyed this. It is imaginative, great descriptions, but complex with a large cast of characters. One or two slips in translation.
    Star rating: ***


  5. Review by Musuem Book Group:
    This is foundling Ewza’s story which carries you from 19thC Chile to California and the gold rush. The characters are well drawn with interesting backgrounds of their own. From her English adoptive parents to the Chinese sage and doctor Tao Chi’en, you just want to know more. We all enjoyed this, some couldn’t wait to turn the page.
    Star rating: ****


  6. Review by Sway Literary Society
    A very good read. We loved the style. Fascinating look at the history of San Francisco and the Gold Rush. A journey of discovery in more ways than one. We’d like to read more Allende.
    Star rating: ***


  7. We enjoyed this book with strong main characters, Eliza and Tao. Packed with facts about the gold rush in California , how towns grew from shacks and tents …Interesting to learn about Tao’s childhood in 19century China. We were surprised to learn this book is the 2nd in a trilogy…where are the other 2 books for Reading groups? The ending suggests we may learn more in the last book to answer some of our questions.
    Worth reading.


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