Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
About the Book
Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune — her first work of fiction in six years — is a rich and spirited historical novel. Set at the exciting midpoint of the Nineteenth Century, and spanning four continents, this eagerly awaited novel, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden, brims with Allende's characteristic magic and once again proves that this beloved novelist can "hold the world spellbound with her tales" (Miami Herald).

The Daughter of Fortune is Eliza Sommers, a young Chilean girl of mysterious origins. Left as a baby on the doorstep of the Sommers, an English family living in Valparaiso, she is adopted by the spinster Rose Sommers and raised to be a proper English lady. But an equally strong childhood influence is Mama Fresia, the Sommers' Indian servant, at whose apron strings Eliza learns the culinary and medicinal secrets of an ancient culture–secrets that will serve her well as the adventure of her life unfolds.

When she is not yet sixteen, Eliza falls in love with Joaquin Andieta, a poor yet terribly proud underling at her uncle Jeremy's British Import and Export Company. Knowing that Rose has set her sights on a more socially exalted marriage of Eliza, the girl conducts her love affair on the sly. When Joaquin announces he must journey to California to make his fortune in the gold rush, Eliza agrees to wait for this return. But, two months after his departure, she discovers she is pregnant with his child.

Eliza knows that the only solution to her predicament is to follow Joaquin to California–hardly an easy feat for a respectable girl with no money. With the help of a Chinese cook, Eliza stows away on a northbound ship. The sea voyage alone nearly kills her, and only through the ministrations of Tao Chi'en, the Chinese cook who is really an accomplished physician, does she survive both a miscarriage and the passage. Somewhat unwillingly Tao Chi'en becomes her protector when they reach San Francisco, and the friendship they forge will prove the only sure footing in each of their shifting destinies.

Once in California, Eliza, disguised as a boy, sets off the find Joaquin. Her search leads her into the dangerous and daring world along the mother lode, and introduces her to a life unimaginable during her sheltered Chilean girlhood. Tao Chi'en, too, witnesses the brutality and promise of the Golden Mountain, his future irrevocably altered by the coarse reality of this imperfect new world.

Characters surface and resurface, reinventing themselves to accommodate the exigencies of life. Crossed paths and missed opportunities abound, as the inextricable fortunes of Allende's vividly portrayed cast play out history. Indeed, in Daughter of Fortune Allende brings a stirring immediacy to history, and once again validates the appraisal that she is "one of the most important novelists to emerge from Latin American in the past decade" (Boston Globe).