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The House of the Spirits Study Guide

The House of the Spirits By Isabel Allende

Clara and Rosa del Valle live in Chile. Clara is psychic, and Rosa has shocking green hair. Clara has a premonition and predicts a death in the family, and Rosa gets poisoned and dies. Clara decides to never talk again. Rosa's fiancé, Esteban Treuba, tries to mend his broken heart by turning his family hacienda, 'Las Trés Marías', into the best in the land. He becomes a tyrant who abuses peasants. His first victim, Pancha García, whom he rapes, becomes pregnant with his child.

Esteban's mother dies, and he decides to honor her deathbed request that he marry and have legitimate children. He marries Clara, who speaks for the first time since her sister's death to accept his proposal. His sister Férula comes to live with them, but he kicks her out when he believes she threatens his complete dominance over Clara. Férula curses him to die like a dog.

Clara gives birth to a daughter, Blanca, and twin boys, Jamie and Nicolás. They grow old, and Blanca befriends a boy named Pedro Tercero. An earthquake destroys part of the hacienda and injures Esteban, so the family moves permanently to Las Trés Marias. Blanca goes to boarding school, but fakes sickness so she can return to Pedro, who becomes her lover until, because of his revolutionary ideals, Esteban forbids him to come to Las Trés Marias.

Jean de Satigny, a visiting French count, tells Esteban about Blanca sneaking out to Pedro, and Esteban whips Blanca so badly that Clara decides never to speak to him again. Clara moves out, and takes Blanca with her. Esteban blames Pedro for everything, and cuts off three of Pedro's fingers.

Blanca realizes that she is pregnant by Pedro, and Esteban, to recover the family's honor, marries her off to de Satigny. She gets along until she finds his porn stash, upon which time she moves back home. She names her daughter Alba, who is born with the same green hair that Rosa had. Clara psychically predicts a good life for Alba.

Esteban sees little of his family anymore, except Clara, who still refuses to speak to him, and Alba, whom he loves. When Clara dies peacefully a few years later, he is struck with grief. Alba is also fond of now-songwriter Pedro, not realizing he is her father - though he is dating Blanca again.

After growing up, Alba meets Miguel, a revolutionary, and becomes his lover. She involves herself in the revolution. When the Socialists win the election, she is happy. Esteban, meanwhile, is afraid of a Communist dictatorship, and helps to plan a military coup. The coup is successful, but the military men grow tyrannical and kill many people, including Blanca's son Jaime, now a gentle doctor. Esteban, terrified, helps Blanca and Pedro move to Canada.

The regime eventually comes for Alba, and she is made the prisoner of Colonel Esteban García -- not realizing that he is, in fact, Esteban Trueba's illegitimate child of his first rape many years ago. García tortures and rapes her, eventually losing her will to live. Clara's spirit comes from the other side to tell her to wish for life, because death is too easy.

Esteban Trueba manages to free Alba, and dies in her arms with Clara's spirit guiding him. He is happy, having avoided Férula's curse that he would die like a dog. Alba settles down to write this very book as she waits for Miguel's return and prepares to give birth to Esteban García's child.

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