Nana had the idea that a good fright might make the child speak, and spent nine years inventing all sorts of desperate strategies for frightening Clara, the end result of which was to immunize the girl forever against terror and surprise. Soon Clara was afraid of nothing. She was unmoved by the sudden appearance of the most livid and undernourished monsters in her room, or by the knock of devils and vampires at her bedroom window. Nana dressed up as a headless pirate, as the executioner of the Tower of London, as a werewolf or a horned devil, depending on her inspiration of the moment and on the ideas she got while flipping through the pages of certain horror magazines, which she bought for this purpose and from which, although she was unable to read, she copied the illustrations. She had acquired the habit of gliding silently through the hallways and jumping at the child in the dark, howling through the doorways, and hiding live animals between her sheet, but none of this elicited so much as a peep from the little girl.
It’s just so damn hard to surprise a clairvoyant.
This was my second reading of The House of the Spirits and, if anything, I enjoyed the magical elements of the book much more on this visit.
A re-visit, spending this last week with the Trueba family, who in turn are re-visited by their past, which Allende spins into the narrative with such ease that reading the story of the different generations made me wonder at every turn of the page what happens next, and what happens to this or that character. Throw in the unspecified political and historical context of the story and I was hooked. Again, I think the second read was more engaging for me than the first in this respect, too. I guess, when I read the book for the first time, I was looking for clear-cut references and didn’t appreciate the intention of the book as much, but some of the beauty and sadness of the book lies in the possibility that it may have been the story of many families, not just that of the Truebas.